Avoiding Alcohol: How to Say "No"
It can be hard to avoid alcohol at social events like weddings, parties, or other occasions. Here's how to politely decline a drink.

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picture of beer Avoiding Alcohol: How to Say "No"

If you've struggled with an alcohol problem, you know how important it is to resist temptation when you're at a party or out with friends. Despite knowing your history, friends may still encourage you to "have just one." Those who don't know you may even insist, or perhaps tease you about your decision to abstain. How can you say no without making a big deal of it?

Recovering alcoholics aren't the only ones who face this challenge. Anyone who chooses to avoid alcohol may have to deal with peer pressure. If you're a teenager, a designated driver, take certain medications, have certain religious beliefs, or just don't want to drink, you need to know how to turn down a drink.

The key is to refuse offers of liquor politely yet firmly, without feeling guilty or making apologies. If someone persists, change the subject or excuse yourself. Don't let yourself be pestered or ridiculed for your choice.

Have a strategy
If you are going to a wedding, a holiday party, or just out with co-workers at the end of the week, it's a good bet there will be alcohol. Before you go, think about different ways you can say "no." Rehearse what you will say ahead of time. This will help you respond better when someone offers you a drink or asks what's in your glass.

  • Keep it simple. Just saying "no thanks" might be enough. Use a small gesture like a hand wave or head shake to emphasize your decision.
  • Offer an explanation. Be honest about your reasons if you feel comfortable enough. Otherwise, explain that you just feel better when you don't drink. You could even say you stopped drinking at your doctor's advice.
  • Suggest an alternative. Instead of alcohol, say you'd love a sparkling water or mix of club soda and juice instead. If you want to fend off further offers, leave a bit of the drink in your glass to show that you're "still working on it."
  • Have a nonalcoholic beer. Order an alcohol-free beer and pour it into a glass or cup. Without the label, no one will know that your drink isn't a regular beer.

It can be hard to hold your ground when friends pressure you to drink with them. If you'd rather not be in that position at all, think about skipping events and get-togethers where alcohol will be served. To avoid feeling left out, arrange to meet up with friends and family in "safe" situations on your own terms.

You owe it to yourself to stay committed to your own health and well-being. Make the right decisions for yourself and don't let others try to make them for you. Any embarrassment or uneasiness will be temporary, but the consequences of giving in can be long-lasting.

By Amanda Genge, Staff Writer
Created on 10/05/2007
Updated on 02/23/2011
  • National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Tips for cutting down on drinking.
  • National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. How to cut down on your drinking.
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