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How to Say “No” to Alcohol With Confidence

Are you someone who has chosen a path of sobriety? For those who never touch a drop, it’s pretty easy to say “no” as it’s their way of life. But for those who have been on the party circuit to “come alive” with alcohol, it may come as a shock to your friends when you turn down a drink. That’s one reason why it’s very challenging for those in recovery, or even those trying to curtail their alcohol use, to engage in social situations.

They have two challenges. First, avoiding temptation and staying sober for the night. Second, overcoming the anxiety of introducing a new sober self to the social scene. Fears of judgment and pressure arise, and even more exhausting, the reactionary need to explain themselves and their choices.

Whether you’ve decided to be a nondrinker, have recognized early warning signs of alcohol misuse, or identified a full-blown alcohol addiction, it’s okay to say “no.” Because of the myriad challenges you might face, below is a list of tips on how to graciously say no without shining a spotlight on yourself and the soda you’re carrying.

Keep It Simple

You’ve probably heard the phrase “less is more.” It applies here too; by giving a clean, rehearsed, and simple statement of refusal, you seem confident. Other partygoers will hear your message loud and clear without the need to pry. Simple statements could include:

  • “I’m driving.”
  • “I don’t drink.”
  • “I want to keep a clear head.”
  • “It makes me sick.”
  • “I’m too busy to be hungover tomorrow.”
  • “I have more fun sober.”
  • “I’m in recovery.”

Offer an Excuse

Some people are not comfortable with the direct approach. This is completely understandable, and you have to find the solution that works best for you. Although I don’t think that excuses are at all necessary when turning down any kind of substance if it makes you feel more confident in saying “no,” then try some of these tips:

  • “I’m trying to lose weight, so I’m not drinking to cut out calories.”
  • “My doctor told me to lay off alcohol for a while.”
  • “I’m on medication and the alcohol will mix badly with it.”
  • “I have a big presentation at work tomorrow and need to be in top form.”
  • “I’ve been feeling dehydrated lately and a bit under the weather.”
  • “I had too much to drink last night and am still recovering from that hangover.”
  • “I’m training for a marathon and following a strict workout and diet schedule.”

Humor Counts

If you’re the life of the party or the friend who always breaks the tension with a good joke, then use your humor here too.  Some people find sarcasm disarming and it also sends a message. Here are some phrases you might practice.

  • “I’m so hammered right now. If I take another drink, you’ll end up wearing it – let’s not do that!”
  • “Thanks very much, but I make enough stupid decisions sober.”
  • “Thanks, I’ve dabbled in alcoholism – it didn’t work out.”
  • “You know me – I’m an all-or-nothing kind of person. So tonight, it will be nothing.”

Healthy Living

As your friends and family are adjusting to your new way of life, they might be persistent in offering you a drink. They’re not trying to be mean or derail you, it probably just hasn’t hit them yet that you’re serious. Additionally, they might not understand the full extent of your problem and are trying to minimize what you’re going through. Remember, these very same people were possibly enabling your habit, so it stands to reason that they now have trouble accepting there are problems.

Because they love and care for you, try bringing health into the equation. These statements might help them take you more seriously:

  • “I’m not kidding; my doctor says I have a problem and need to stop.”
  • “My last physical exam didn’t go so well – so I’m no longer drinking.”
  • “I have a lot of living left to do and I want to do it with my liver and mind intact.”
  • “Drinking gives me serious headaches, anxiety, and depression.”

Take Our “Am I Addicted to Alcohol?” Self-Assessment

Take our free, 5-minute “Am I Addicted to Alcohol” self-assessment below if you think you or someone you love might be struggling with drug addiction. The evaluation consists of 11 yes or no questions that are intended to be used as an informational tool to assess the severity and probability of a substance use disorder. The test is free, confidential, and no personal information is needed to receive the result.

Finding the Right Approach for You

Every approach is valid. The most important thing is finding an approach that works for you. Another thing to mention is that when it comes to saying “no,” you have to sound convincing and firm. If you waffle, hesitate, or choke on your own response, pressure is going to mount.

Moreover, the key here is that you might not be all that committed after all. It’s a good idea to check in with yourself to remember why you’ve chosen a path of sobriety and what might happen to you if you renege on that intent. And keep in mind that recovery is a process. If you slip up and have a drink, keep it to just the one and start fresh tomorrow.

Practice the phrases that work best for you at home, then they will come out more naturally when you’re in a social setting.  Remember, it’s a process. Take things one day at a time.

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