Dec 20, 2018 | By Tim Stoddart

6 Ways Decline To A Drink – In The Most Festive Way


It should be easy to decline a drink in recovery, right? You should be able to smile and say, ‘Thanks, but I’m not drinking tonight.’

But, for most people, it doesn’t end up like that all the time – especially during the holidays. Friends or family members you haven’t seen in a year who don’t know you’re sober may get pushy, or defensive. And, if you’re new to recovery, this may come as a surprise for the cousin or the friend you used to drink with when you turn the intoxicating elixir down.

Decline A Drink – Gracefully

Now you find yourself in the middle of a conversation about why exactly you aren’t drinking.

Are you pregnant? Are you looking down on them because they’re drinking? Are you an alcoholic? What is your problem, and why won’t you drink? 

This isn’t quite what you expected, and you’re not about to tell someone your business and life story in this setting – so here are a couple of ways to say ‘no’ to a drink. However, only you will know the type of setting and situation and will know how to take the best course of action.

Make An Excuse

While there are some who will understand your, “Thanks, I’m not drinking,” response, it can be fairly common for those to come back with a response of, ‘why not?’ This is a good segway to make an excuse. While it’s technically none of their business and you’re not obligated to explain, it may help you feel more comfortable than becoming vulnerable to give an excuse – especially if you’re not too familiar with the person. However, you have to find the solution that works best for you. Some common excuses can consist of:

  • “I have to drive when I leave.”
  • “I’m on a health kick.”
  • “I’m on medication and can’t drink on it.”
  • “I have an appointment in the morning and need to wake up extra early.”
  • “I’m making a lifestyle change and am laying off the booze for awhile.”

Or, you can make a joke out of it:

  • “If I drink I’ll break out in handcuffs.”
  • “Thanks, but I decided to give everyone else a change for once.”
  • “I already have to pee, this’ll just do me in.”
  • “No thanks, I want to be home for Christmas next year.”

Bring Your Drink With You

Bring a soft drink or a coffee, or grab one when you first get there. You can truthfully decline a drink and tell someone that you already have a drink as soon as they ask. It can help to already have something in your hand. Some will assume you’re already drinking alcohol. While this won’t always work, it can give off the assumption that you’re too tired to drink. Most people are polite enough to accept this and move on. Grab a cup of something and people will assume you’re drinking with no excuses or explanations necessary.

Just Say No

I feel a little reminiscent of my childhood D.A.R.E. days with this point. However, if you keep saying, “No, thank you,” and “I don’t drink,” and you decline a drink, the problem will end up taking care of itself. In the future, if someone offers you a drink, a third person may end up saying, “Tori doesn’t drink,” or the person offering the drink will stop themselves and say, “wait, what am I saying? I know that you don’t drink.” Overtime, this will become the norm.

Bring A Wing-Man

In most situations, you’re going to have someone familiar there who knows what you’ve been through and what you’re currently going through that can be there to give you support. If this isn’t the case, politely ask the host of the party if you can bring a friend with you. If you bring someone like this, they can be there to hold you accountable and be your wing-man for the night when you decline a drink. It can take a lot of pressure off of you.

Leave Early

If you’re not having fun, are uncomfortable, and feel like the pink elephant in the room – leave! Nobody is stopping you, and if you’re having some FOMO, it’s better to leave instead of take the risk of drinking.

Tell Them You’re In Recovery

You’d be surprised by some people’s responses when you decline a drink and tell them that you’re in recovery. Recovery and sobriety can be common these days. Likely, they’ve had a family member, a friend, or a neighbor that they know who is also in recovery. If they poke and prod about details about your past that make you uncomfortable – be honest – and tell them that you’d rather talk about it later. Likely, they’ll understand and make their way to other conversation throughout the party.

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