How To Turn Down a Drink with Confidence

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.

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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.

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.

Photo by Melissa on

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.

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.

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