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How To Turn Down a Drink with Confidence


Photo by Mat Brown on

Being prepared for events that will include drinking alcohol can prove to be quite daunting. Many of us in recovery often contemplate our ability to stay sober while surrounded by people who may be indulging. This has been one of the greater struggles as well as learning experiences of my sobriety as I continue to find new ways to turn down a drink and get through the questions that often follow.

If you are in early recovery, I would strongly recommend avoiding drinking gatherings if at all possible. It is hard enough to quit drinking, and even harder to stay sober while people around you are drinking. Be especially aware of your feelings of sadness or anger, which are great triggers for drinking. DO NOT GO if you are at all worried about your ability to remain sober. If you get to the event, and you do feel uncomfortable, just LEAVE! It is important to be honest with yourself; it is OK if you do not feel safe around alcohol! I often still do not.

So when that dreaded question comes at you, Would you like a drink? how exactly do you go about answering it?

I used to assume that when someone asked me if I wanted a drink, it always meant an alcoholic drink. When that question came up, I would get horribly nervous, and get tongue tied while trying to find the precise words for my answer. I did not particularly feel like explaining it all to a stranger, and I did not want to be embarrassed either.

But, I have a disease that makes me think that one is just enough, and then ten drinks later, I want more. This I know for a fact, and no matter what my answer to the question may be, most likely the person asking it will not understand. So, I have always learned to just say No, Thank you. This is a great technique, clear and to the point. Nevertheless, it may be difficult to face those strange looks that you might get afterwards, or the questions following, or even that one, persistently nagging person that will just not leave you alone. Although their questioning you about your non-drinking may not be spiteful, many people may still not phrase the questions in the most sensitive way, and some may come off as rude and annoying.

Unfortunately saying No, Thank you often seems to leaves people in an awkward moment.


Photo by PhotoMIX Ltd. on

So when I am at drinking events I try to approach the question with a good attitude and a positive tone. After all a drink is just a drink and it can be anything, I want it to be. So why not say “Thank you, I would love a drink! Could I have a Diet Coke with a lime, please?”

I have been using this technique for some time now, and I feel confident and empowered because it actually allows me to say Yes and not feel awkward by having to say No. In addition, for some reason, I have not had a single person ask me if I was sure, and if I really did not want an alcoholic drink. I think this works great because I say it with enthusiasm, as if I was ordering the best cocktail in the world Well, to me I am, love my Diet Coke with a lime!

Of course, I have gone thru my fair share of people pushing drinks my way. I do know that there is other instance when people specifically say, Would you like some wine or a cocktail. Well, then I would rather say, No, thank you, but then I quickly follow it by saying, But I’d love a Diet Coke with a lime.  However, if I ever get stuck or someone is very pushy, I make sure that I speak firmly and with self-confidence when declining a drink.

Here are some of my favorite answers:

When asked why I am not drinking I can just say:

  • I am the designated driver.
  • I am getting over a bad cold.
  • I am on a strict diet.
  • I am allergic to hops.
  • I have an early morning appointment.

Or I can use these funny versions:

  • Thank you, but you do not have enough.
  • I am training out for the Olympics.
  • It makes me very sleepy and I would like to be awake for your party.
  • I went over my lifetime limit a long time ago.
  • I am allergic, and I breakout in handcuffs.

Photo by Melissa on

Of course, there is always the upfront, open version:

  • I do not drink alcohol anymore.
  • I am in recovery from alcohol abuse.
  • I am in recovery from substance use disorder.

If I am upfront about being in recovery from Alcohol Use Disorder, I find that most people are not only apologetic but also become supportive. I use this technique when I feel especially pressured and in a new environment where I might not know many people and I do not know what their reaction may be. Of course, you may not feel comfortable with this approach at first but really, this is the most certain way to get someone to stop pushing a drink on you!

No matter what you do, be sure that you feel comfortable with it. Take some time to plan what you will say, and stick to your plan: have a non-alcoholic drink in hand always, and leave if the temptation gets too great. For many, drinking versus not drinking is the difference between life and death, so remember that if a person chooses to mock you or interrogate you at a social gathering, they are not your friend.


If you, or anyone you know, is struggling with Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD)*, please check out the Sober Courage menu at the top of this page for an extensive list of support groups and recovery related articles.

Connect with Sober Courage on FacebookTwitterand Instagram.

*Problem drinking that becomes severe is given the medical diagnosis of “alcohol use disorder” or AUD. AUD is a chronic relapsing brain disease characterized by compulsive alcohol use, loss of control over alcohol intake, and a negative emotional state when not using (Ref: NIAAA).



  1. Great post! Very early on I had to attend a wedding interstate. I felt I had to go because I’d paid for it already. Worst thing I’ve ever experienced and that was because of a whole range of factors that just were not good at that point. In hindsight, I should not have gone but I did get through it. Just. I love looking straight back at people when they offer a drink now and saying “No thanks. I gave up”. Among my oldest friends, there is always a mixture of disbelief, confusion, envy and admiration, followed by a need to justify their own drinking. If it’s someone who doesn’t know me, no big deal at all. I think the confidence also comes when we realise we have made a powerful choice. The drink doesn’t have the power any more, we do. I always enjoy your posts! X

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hi! Congrats on 8 months! 🎂🎂🎂 I love the yes approach. It really is empowering. I know this is hard. I struggled for a long time. I think a lot of it has to do with our own self-esteem but the good news is that the longer we are sober the better we feel about ourselves and we find the strength to protect our sobriety.

      Thanks for stopping by. Sending hugs.


  2. I love all your advice, especially on social, drinking situations. I don’t go out much in that respect any more, I just don’t find it as enjoyable. But there are some occasions I just couldn’t avoid, it would offend people too much. Only today I was thinking about one such event – carnival day – in June. I must remember that its entirely possible to enjoy these things sober!! X

    Liked by 1 person

    • I have to say that I don’t go to many drinking events anymore either. It’s just not that much fun with people getting drunk around me. Lol! But last year we went to a wedding and I danced the night away. It was super fun. So yes! Definitely possible!

      Thank you. Sending hugs.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Love these suggestions and the idea of saying “yes”! I have a year today and still have issues knowing what to say in social situations. I was thinking of doing a kind of crowd source post to find out what other people say. Thanks for this!

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s a great idea for a post, and we could all benefit from more techniques, because what might work for me might not work so well for others. And of course the more sobriety tools in your toolbox the better.

      Thanks for stopping by. Hugs.


  4. Laughing at the three levels of replies. I love the perspective you give me on how I can answer. At first I was overly concerned with what others thought. As I grow, I care less, if at all. It is so nice to be comfortable being me. It is so strange to be at events and having, as much (if not more), fun than the drinkers. Sometimes people will ask what I’m drinking, my reply “What I’ve got can’t come from a bottle. It’s earned.” Loving the sober journey with friends like you to remind me of everything I give up if I decide drinking alcohol is a good idea. Great post.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hi Lisa! Thanks for stopping by and all your shares. I too thinks that we worry more than others. And I love your line too. In the end it’s just important to protect ourselves, sobriety is such a gift and a drink is an arm length away and I don’t want to ever go back.

      Sending many hugs.


  5. This is great. Luckily, no one’s offered me an alcoholic drink, but when they do, I’m going to smile wickedly and say, “My dear lady/man, you simply do not have enough.” AND THEN LET THE AWKWARDNESS BEGIN! Mwwa ha ha!

    Liked by 1 person

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