Oct 22, 2015 | By Tim Stoddart

What Do You Do When Someone Asks Why You Don’t Drink?


 say when someone asks why you dont drink

Video Transcript:

Tim here. Sobernation.com

I’m doing another video because I was asked an interesting question the other day and it’s a question that I have been asked a bunch of times. I’ve never really had the perfect advice to give and I still don’t have the perfect advice to give, but I thought I’d at least share my experience on it in case anyone else is wondering about this which, I’m sure they are.

So the question that was asked fo me is, what do you do if someone asks why you don’t drink?

Usually, this happens if you’re out with friends, if you’re out at a social event. If someone offers me a beer, I usually just say “no thanks.” If someone asks me why, I usually just say “because I don’t drink.” That’s where I leave it and most of the time that’s where it stops.

I’ve found that people don’t actually care as much as I think they do as to why I don’t drink. It’s more so that they just offer it and then you say no and then they say “okay, no problem.”

But, every once in a while you will find that person who sort of looks at you weird and they ask you why and sometimes they me even ask “c’mon, what do you mean you don’t drink? It’s just one.”

My usual response is that “it’s not good for me.” Sometimes they catch on and sometimes they take it a step further. They may even ask “did you have a problem?” or “what? are you an alcoholic?”

The reason why I think there is no clear cut answer to this is because it is up to everyone individually as to what they want to say. You can go into and tell your story if you want. I generally choose to say “I’ve had some problems with it in the past and I chose not to do it anymore.”

Again, that’s usually where it stops.

The thing that is important is that… it’s a big fear of ours right? To think, what are people going to think of me? Am I going to be judged? Are people going to talk behind my back? What are the neighbors or my friends going to think? I’ve discovered like I said before that people don’t give it that much thought.

I tend to be a self-centered person. I think it’s important to establish what self-centered means. Self-centered means that everything is about me. So if people are having a conversation I assume it is about me. If there is something going on, I always can make it about me and I get up in my head about it. So, you think that people are talking about you or that they are thinking about you but really they’re not.

Everybody has got their own lives going on, everybody’s got their own problems and their own insecurities and the truth is that most of the time people don’t really care about your insecurities that much.

That’s my advice on the subject. That’s really the best advice I can give because like I said before it hasn’t really been that much of an issue for me. Maybe I can think of a few times, one time at a wedding a family acquaintance was pretty drunk and kept offering it to me and I just walked away. I didn’t make a big deal about it.

My response, if someone offers me a drink is “no thanks, I don’t drink.”

That’s usually where it ends right?

If anyone else has had any other experience about this, please share it leave it in the comments. Leave it in the comments of the blog as well, not just the social media. I am sure there are people out there who have had issues or experience with this. Maybe I’m just lucky and I’m not one of them.

If you have had some experience, give us some of your advice because I am sure there are other people out there, that are looking for advice that could use your help.

That’s all I got.

As always if you guys want to share your personal stories with me, if you want to share your before and after, if you want to share your anniversaries, just send me the picture through the messages in the Facebook.

If you have a personal story just email it to me at tim@sobernation.com.

If you guys ever want to contact me, at all just email me. I love talking to you guys I love hearing what you have to say.

Till next time.

64 responses to “What Do You Do When Someone Asks Why You Don’t Drink?

    • william S

      8 years ago

      good response, sometimes if they push they might be wondering if they could get what you got, I always have my business card with the Hotline # on it just in case

    • Sharon Gonyon

      7 years ago

      I also say, because after 29 years in recovery, I need to keep myself accountable..I am recovering!

  • Thank you Tim. I have been sober 17 years and I remember struggling with this at the beginning. I pretty much did what you do, but if people got too curious it really made me nervous and made me defensive…why the flock do I have to explain my choice? I don’t ask them why the DO drink! One day I heard someone else undergoing the scrutiny, and she said “I’m allergic to alcohol”…hey, good one! Stopped the interrogator dead in their tracks, what can you say to that, but, “oh”. I find as time goes on it gets much easier and if people are relentless and too nosy I have learned to have fun with it…”Oh, I break out in great ooozing hives and projectile vomit….” end of inquisition! ha!

    • I usually just say I don’t drink. If they ask why I also tell them I’m allergic to alcohol (according to the Big Book I have an allergy of the body & obsession of the mind which I believe is true). Many times they respond by saying they’ve never heard of that before and I tell them it’s more common that they think. Sometimes I make a joke out of it & say yes, when I drink I break out in handcuffs (stole that from a speaker I heard say it once). That usually ends the conversation. But It depends. If it’s someone I think may benefit from it AI break my anonymity and offer my number if they want it. Then hope that they call if they decide they need help… Great article – thanks & have a blessed day!

  • I agree with you and that is my usual answer. I also like Ronny Downy Jr. answer I thought about a drink then realized I have plans for Christmas. Your right most people are more concern with what is in their glass then yours. So I usually have some kind of non alcoholic drink in my hand, then they just don’t ask.

  • Great answer. Most people don’t care. I think the most trouble people have is when they are hanging out with their old drinking buddies. That’s just a bad spot to put yourself in. Find new friends, especially if they can’t accept that you’re trying to live your life the best way you can. I know. That’s not what you want to hear. But people still caught up with alcoholism see you quitting as a finger pointing back at them. They will try to bring you back in. Stay away.

  • I tell them I’m allergic to alcohol and that I break out in handcuffs

    • My alcoholic says the same thing – then they laugh and life goes on…..

      • He also says. There isn’t enough alcohol back there for me…

  • I have never had a problem with alcohol or any other drugs, but I have chosen not to drink. I have chosen to be sober, because I have seen the damage alcohol and drug abuse can do. So every time I am offered a drink, I decline and I say “I don’t drink.” If people insist in asking why, I say “I choose to be sober, that’s all.” And let them come to their own conclusions.

    • Gina, I like this answer. Think I’ll make it mine, too.

  • Good question Tim . But even a better answer , I have been sober/ clean since 06/24/11 and doing well . I live in a very small town about 5000 people . Everybody it seems drinks . All functions like golfing , fishing , quading , camping ect ect ect . I don’t isolate anymore as to when I drank so this question happens lots …. My response is simple. No thanks I choose not to drink today . As the program tells me. ” one day at a time ” I need not to explain my choice to anybody . In a joking manner if asked … Why don’t you drink ? I answer : I like being sober so I can be of service , if I am needed .

  • When the question persists I take it as a potential 12th step opportunity. So my standard is, no thanks, I don’t drink anymore. When asked why I say I used up all of my tokens.

  • ‘I come out in handcuffs and prison cells’…… usually shuts people up.

  • Tim, it was nice to hear you speak on the topic. I have had an issue with dating while sober, as the question “why don’t you drink?” can certainly put a damper on the date! Especially when the person takes it a step further and asks if I have a problem…and believe it or not, I have been on many dates where the expressed he is uncomfortable dating someone who is sober (Clearly that is their own personal insecurity).
    All this being said, it can absolutely be uncomfortable sometimes and I agree that it is hard not to take it personal. Thank you for bringing this up, it is nice to know we are not alone!

    • I have fallen from sobriety a few times this way Lindsay, as a new non-drinker without a recovery program, it was one after the other whether dating, as well as old Friends and new friends, “Let’s get together and have a drink…” It is a staple here in small town USA, whether it be a bar, a cook out, sporting event, etc. And after so many people in a week, and being asked until the point where they look at you like there must be something really wrong with you and if I have a problem, It is frustrating and stressful which are huge triggers. I am newly in recovery now again with a program/support group and I just thought just now I think I’m going to ask why do they drink and they’ll either laugh and get my point or I’ll see who really has the problem and want nothing to do with them anyway. If they can’t respect your decisions for your Life, they are not worth having in it.

  • I like to use RDJ’s line. “I’m allergic to [drugs and] alcohol. I break out in handcuffs”

  • I tell em if I have one , I may not stop again. I really like being me!Sober, thanks , but NO thanks! and leave it at that! Boom!!!

  • Douglas Lyons

    8 years ago

    Just keep on doing what you do and don’t give up because only you can make this dream come true

  • When I was in a two week detox place for women there was this really cool
    Chick working the graveyard shift. One night we were outside smoking and she was telling me about her first year and how some of her old friends had invited to go get a drink sometime? I said Well you told them you drink anymore right? She said Nah.. I just told them maybe some other time but Not Today. I was blown away by that. Why wouldn’t see No I don’t drink.. Instead of leaving it like a rain check? She told me that she doesn’t feel the need to go into all that and honestly you never know what tomorrow holds.. But today she was going to have a drink with them. I loved it.. Ended up getting it tattooed on my foot.. “Not Today” and that’s my response!

  • I just say, I’m an alcoholic. I don’t care who’s asking, and I mean anyone. Time to destigmatize.

  • Mark Natuzzi

    8 years ago

    It reminds of the time I was a tap dancing Santa Claus
    back in the late seventies and I had to sing a Christmas Song for fifty people when I finished the host asked me if I want a drink? I said spontaneously hiding behind my white beard ‘I am a alcoholic’ the whole party gasped and I left.

  • I’ve not been drinking for about 4 years now. I’ve made a lot of personal lifestyle choices that are greatly beneficial to my overall health and SHEEPLE in general aren’t comfy with them. Sheeple don’t like it when you stray from the herd.
    There are those that are curious and those that seem antagonistic when they pose the “how come you don’t _______________”. For those who send off vibes that they are coming from a not so nice place my standard response is this.
    “…the way I choose to live MY life is not a commentary on how you are living yours. I just choose not to.” Usually shuts them up but quick.

  • I tell people that my medication doesn’t allow it. Somebody did object saying a little wouldn’t hurt. I ignored them.

  • charles labor

    8 years ago

    I haven’t drank for over 30 years. When I was asked about having a drink, I would just say “No thanks, I just had a banana”. Stopped them in their tracks.

      • I love the ‘I just had a banana’ response. Awesome. Honestly I had this experience at a work function last night. And it was my first experience with this in my 18 months sober. I was asked by a coworker who I had previously gone to happy hour with during my drinking days why I wasn’t drinking and I said I gave it up. She said, “Ohhh are you pregnant?”…..I said “Uhhhhh NOO! I quit drinking, please don’t tell people you think I’m pregnant”. As a strong and focused career woman it dawned on me, the question I had been fearing turned into a thought of “oh sh** they may think there is a looming maternity leave in my future and I DON’T WANT THAT”. I realized then that some people need a reason and my reason is I gave it up. Period. Struck me as funny how quickly I was not ashamed of giving up alcohol….guess my Higher Power needed to give me a new perspective…

  • Hey, great article and ideas… I don’t drink because it makes me feel like shit… so I just say that… 😉

  • Stephanie

    8 years ago

    Thanks for the post and the comments. I’m newly sober (binge drinker/party girl). I haven’t been faced with this situation yet but it is becoming a growing concern. Probably making it a bigger issue in my head than it really will be but I want to be prepared and these tips are awesome!

  • When pressed I love to say, “Me and alcohol get along just fine. I don’t drink it and it won’t ruin my life.”

  • Louis Goicoechea

    8 years ago

    I was once pushed to the point where the guy asked if I have had a problem with alcohol. I replied: “It seems to me that you have a problem now as you feel that everyone must drink and if not that they owe you an explanation.” Perhaps that’s a bit strong, but it was none of his business nor anyone else’s why I choose not to drink.

  • I’ve been asked why I don’t drink during my sobriety. I tell them sorry I don’t drink and if they ask why again I say I’m in recovery. Then they give me respect for that and that I can say no to alcohol. They don’t come out negative towards at all. I’m coming up 4 years of sobriety on 3/18/16. God is good!

  • I’ve been sober for 29.5 years and my response has always been, “not today, thanks”. So far I’d say my acceptance of that saying has been pretty close to 100%.

    If I’m at an event with wine, I also simply turn the wine glass upside down so the servers know not to pour me any.

    Hope this helps someone!

  • Self-centeredness is the heart of our disease. We have a disease that in the end forces us to seek help. Read the triangle of self-obsession and what it highlights to be the solution: applying spiritual principles in all areas of our lives. Including the tolerance to tell someone straight up that alcohol destroys lives.

  • I’ve been sober for almost 39 years. It as only in the first year or so that I worried about what people would think. I remember saying I;m allergic to alcohol. And like you said, it usually just ended right there.. Thank you for being here.

  • Thanks Tim Stoddart for writing this, and thanks for the opportunity to post to it. For the first couple years I too struggled with what to say. Since I no longer attended bars, that cut down on situations where I might have to qualify my abstinence. I used to tell people that I had already drunk my share. That usually went over fine, but often that would lead to a question of if I had a problem. Eventually I decided that the best way for me was to just tell them the truth, and, that you never know, the someone who is asking might also be someone who has questions about their own alcohol use. So I would tell them: “Some people drink for the taste, some people drink for the effect, and some people drink for both. I am one of those who always drank for the effect, and because of that, one drink was always too many, and a hundred never enough. Alcohol causes judgement impairment and I do just fine making poor decisions without any help. But when I drank it caused me to make poor decisions that endangered the safety and well-being of myself, people that I love, and even people I have never met”. ………I always try to remember that every opportunity (just like this one for me!) that you get to speak with someone about strength in sobriety reinforces your own belief, AND just might be the honest submission that helps someone else to take a “leap of faith”

  • Great article! You are so right, people really don’t care as much as you think. If someone asks me why I don’t drink I simply tell them, “I took my privileges away”. I’ve found that the folks who are uncomfortable with me not drinking or my response “I don’t drink” likely are the folks that have a problem with alcohol and don’t want to take the discussion any further.

  • Colleen McGinty

    8 years ago

    I like to not take things so seriously and say ” well I’m a fast drinker and I already used up all my alcoholic drinks for this lifetime”

  • A close friend recently asked me what was more difficult, quitting drinking or quitting smoking. The question surprised me, but it shouldn’t have since we were discussing quitting smoking (she’s trying to quit). I told her quitting smoking was more difficult but that is just my experience of course.

    I have not drank in almost 7 years (April 2009). I have similar experiences to the speaker. I attend many events where alcohol is served and I have only been pressed on the subject once or twice. I just say I don’t drink, and if pressed, it’s a personal choice. No need to explain any further in my opinion. Kind of like having to explain to people why you don’t like tomatoes, strawberry ice cream, or chicken livers. It’s your choice and your life. It’s your choice and you have no obligation to do so, especially in a social setting.

  • If someone asks why I don’t drink or pressures me, I get right to the point and say, “I don’t react well to alcohol. Nobody here would want me to drink, trust me.” After a response like that people either let it go and permanently leave me alone (lol) or they want to know more- in which case, I lay it out for them.

  • Usually say “I don’t feel like having a drink right now “. They can argue with my feelings. Saves my anonymity and does not offend them.

  • When they say are you drinking? And I say I don’t feel like it.they usually say go on we like fun Cheryl. It’s their problem not mine I don’t have an addiction or problem I just see it as it is that’s all

  • I simply say when people ask why I don’t drink
    ” because I don’t have to ”
    If people push it I usually make a joke at their expense using exaggerated gestures and say things like ” woah there champ , stop pushing your daddy issues on me and enjoy your own beer ” .. Usually people laugh and let it go .

  • So if “I don’t drink” doesn’t satisfy their curiosity, then I tell them I am allergic to alcohol. If I drink it, I break out in hand Cuffs!

  • I also say, I’ve had my share. If pressed I sorta make it a humorous thing and explain that I used up my share early on even tho it took til 48 y/o.

  • When people ask why I always give the same answer: Because I’m no damn good at it.

  • I’ll just say no thanks I don’t drink if asked why I say just not for me .but like you was saying every now and then someone wants to keep digging and if I feel like shutting them down I just say I don’t feel like waking up with a needle in my arm tmrw , stops um dead but hey that just my story lol

  • I’ve never been a drinker, but my dad was and so was my husband and his family. When living in a small town (back in the 80’s) I’d just order an orange juice and let people assume it was a drink. I really don’t enjoy the feeling I get when I drink, I get depressed. So now I have three answers. 1. I like being the designated driver. 2. I’m a depressed drunk, I like being happy. 3. I had an alcoholic father and husband, I don’t want to go that path.

    My favorite is the Designated Driver statement. The drinkers get that and actually appreciate it.

  • I always come out with the truth. First of all, I do say I am not a very likeable social drinker. In other words, I am totally Anti-social and I have never met a person that had fun with me when I was “socially drinking” (something I never could grasp). I usually follow up by stating I am in recovery. Thanks but no thanks.

  • Throw the Question back at the person and say “Why do you drink”?

    When I do this, then I can give a negative outcome to what ever reason they have for drinking.

    For example if they say it’s so much fun and a great way to relax. I just say it makes me sick. There are many rebuttals to give and asking a person “Why do you drink?” puts me in charge of the conversation.

    It makes it easier to say no because I can give a negative outcomes to all of the drinkers positive reasons.

  • stefanie miniea

    8 years ago

    i simply state no thanks i’m in recovery and smile my elated sober smile that i’m so grateful for. for me the ability to state that i’m a sober person is so amazing that i’m more than happy to say exactly why i don’t drink or use anything mind altering

  • I just say “one is too many and a hundred aren’t enough ” and watch them try to figure it out.

  • Usually when it goes to the next level of “come on, it’s just one drink”, I respond with, “I’m not feeling like a drink right now” sometimes I will add, “maybe later”. They can not argue with my feelings. And “later” never comes.

  • Midnite Mike

    7 years ago

    I tell people that I had the privilege to drink at one time, but I abused it so bad that the privilege was revoked!

  • Patricia Carder Wade

    5 years ago

    I usually say no no thank you, I don’t drink anymore as I’m allergic to alcohol it makes me break out in handcuffs and I’m done with that way of life.

  • I say, “no thanks, I’ve had enough.” or . “no thanks, I’ve got plans for Christmas.” (that one leaves them baffled) . or . “no thanks, I break out in places.”

  • WMy 17 year old daughter doesn’t drink and has to justify it to her friends and even her father and his family because they all drink and don’t understand non-drinkers. I pray she has the strength to keep up this position when she enters college in the fall. She is pretty resolute! She doesn’t even drink caffeine…

  • Aged_English_Teacher

    4 years ago

    If pressed, I tell people I used up my lifetime quota in my 30s and that ends it on a light note. That said, i recently had dealings with someone who wouldn’t let it alone, which was very annoying, i think they were concerned about their own drinking and hoped to find a way to avoid quitting.

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