not drinking reasons

How to explain your alcohol choices: 8 creative excuses for not drinking

Looking for a list of solid excuses for not drinking alcohol? We’ve got you covered, but you might not need to rely on ‘excuses’ after all… 

So, you’ve started your booze-free period, and things are looking up. You’re over the first few disorienting days and you’re starting to feel the growing benefits for mind, body and soul. That brain-fog, that you hadn’t previously realised was there, is now lifting. The guts are stabilising, the sleep is awesome and the skin is glowing. It’s time to take this ‘new you’ out for a spin and do some socialising!

You hit the gathering, and, despite the fact that these are mostly friends from way back, you’re a little nervous. How is this going to work without the lubricant? Will you get into the swing of it quickly? Come up with the repartee? Dance like a mad thing?

That tricky question

What you weren’t expecting was to be flummoxed by the first question: ‘Why aren’t you drinking?’

This is a really common issue – not knowing what to say when you are in social situations and someone offers you a drink, or asks why you aren’t drinking. For a lot of people it can feel really rude to turn down a drink, like you’re spoiling the fun. Or you feel exposed by saying ‘no’, feeling that you have to justify your decision or engage in a conversation about why you don’t drink.

But consider that we don’t question pregnant women why they’re not drinking – or designated drivers, or people training for a marathon. That’s because they have a good reason not to drink, that we all accept socially. It is good to consider that idea for yourself.

You don’t need excuses for not drinking; you have a really good reason not to drink too, and you’ve spent some time coming to that decision – so own it. This is a personal choice and one that you’ve made yourself, like what kind of car to drive, or where to go on holidays.  But if you simply want to kill the line of inquiry dead and move on to more interesting topics, you can try a ‘move on – nothing to see here’ approach. Try the following replies:

  • I’m the designated driver.
  • I’ve got an early start in the morning.
  • I’m taking the night off – giving the liver a break!
  • I just want to see what it’s like to go with out a drink.
  • I’m doing it for charity. Do you want to sponsor me? (Say this if you really want them to get out of your face).

However, some of your friends may deserve a more frank explanation (and, importantly, some of them may actually benefit from your example), so consider some of these responses:

  • I’m having a break from drinking as I noticed it was affecting my health.
  • I’m not drinking at the moment as I’m on a health regime.
  • I’ve found I feel much better without alcohol.


A reflection of their own beliefs about alcohol

Often people will be surprised or disappointed if you turn down a drink as it may reflect on their own drinking – they might feel a bit exposed if you are staying sober. It can be good to show them that you are not passing judgement on their behaviour, and that this is really just a personal decision.

At Hello Sunday Morning, we believe that others’ responses can be partly to do with their own ‘baggage’, and this can be uncomfortably brought to the surface by someone who is abstaining.

In other words, the discomfort of the situation might be more with that person than with you. 

More common than you think

The reality is, that most people at some point in their lives have considered cutting back on alcohol – it is something that tends to affect our health and mood, particularly as we get older. Most people can relate to the idea of cutting back or taking a break from alcohol to focus on their health – this is something that is becoming more and more common, and no longer a tacit admission of a deeper and humiliating problem with drinking.

What kinds of social situations are the most problematic for you – turning down a drink, or being around a lot of alcohol? 

Let us know in the comments section.

 If you find you need extra support to help you change, check out Hello Sunday Mornings’ mobile behaviour change program, Daybreak.


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  • The most annoying situation is when choosing not to drink people immediately think that you may have an alcohol problem.

    By Vanessa
    March 20, 2019
  • My “creative” excuse is that I have given it up for Lent, and that happens to be true. But I didn’t do this for religious reasons, even though I am a nominal Christian, I did it to feel better physically and mentally. Ash Wednesday happened to be at hand and 6 weeks seemed like a good trial period. We shall see if I make it, and, if so, what follows, but even just 2 weeks in I am feeling significant benefits, as I had hoped. Not easy to suppress the cravings, but so far, so good. Having my wife join me is a huge advantage.

    By Carl Schwarz
    March 20, 2019
  • Family members have been the issue for me. The sulking, non-communicative response along with the silence accompanied with disbelief is uncomfortable to deal with. I am sure that underpinning it is a sense that I am trying to go one better than them. This is probably generated by their own discomfort with their own drinking. I had one situation when a family member slumped on the restaurant table, caught a fly in her empty glass, trapped it with a coaster and remained in that position for 45 minutes without speaking a word. How embarrassing.

    By John Lawson
    March 21, 2019
  • I’m an alcoholic, however I’m able to give up alcohol quite easily from time to time. My “excuse” is usually because of a weight loss binge. At one stage about 3 years ago I didn’t drink for 4 months either side of a 12 month stint of losing weight. I lost over 20kg! Over time I put on more weight and decided recently to lose weight again.. So far I have lost 7kg in a short period of time and haven’t had any alcohol for a month. Easy to explain that one to family and friends as they can actually see a physical difference and they seem to understand the non-drinking. So in summary, a goal for me is the trick and in my case I can actually feel and see the difference, it’s not just a mind thing.

    By Kevin Clements
    March 21, 2019
  • I enjoy my life without the alcohol

    By Katherine Major
    March 21, 2019
  • I say I’m AF! I don’t drink. When they probe I say my husband’s a marathon runner and I’m supporting him. Which he is.

    By Yogame
    March 21, 2019
    • Well, ironically, one of the most stable periods in my life was whilst serving 3 years of a 6 year prison sentence. Obviously I was sober and spent the first year teaching Music Technology to other inmates, the second year teaching IT and the final year in an open prison where they let me out every day, gave me the keys to my van and I would drive around London doing deliveries. It was quite good fun and I got on with everyone, both staff and inmates.

      So, I’m giving this a go in the wider world and feel a million times better for it!

      I have been able to go without a drink at social events for a long time and never felt uncomfortable about it, and have DJ’d at some of London’s leading venues.

      The problem I had was a combination of ‘secret drinking’, ‘problem drinking’ and ‘binge drinking’

      What I now accept is that drinking does not make a problem go away and often causes more problems! ‘One drink’ was sometimes OK but it often led to one too many! And secret drinking is kinda boring, do I really wanna sit my myself getting bladdered all the time? No thanks! 😂👍

      Good luck and best wishes to all looking for an alternative way of having fun 😀🤗

      By Enlightened
      July 20, 2022
  • i dont have excuses for not drinking ,i have a reason

    By john connolly
    March 21, 2019
    • I no longer feel like shit. Instead I feel great!

      By Ava
      January 7, 2021
  • When I stopped drinking with HSM, it raised the inevitable ‘why’? question from others. I used a version of Billy Connolly’s reply: ‘I’ve already got through my lifetime supply’. It raised a smile and seemed to stop any further questions. With close friends, I was more frank and explained my struggles, asking for support

    By Sue Cooper
    March 21, 2019
  • My journey has not been too smooth,I haven’t fully gotten out of the booze but iam almost there.My worst problem are my buddies and business associates whom more often than not we meet in pubs .I am now 80 %confident of not drinking but I will at least gulp a tot of jackdenniel before I leave

    By kimwaki
    March 21, 2019
  • Some good pointers there……I tend to go for “I am just giving it a rest ..but you crack on”. Im quite hard headed ( usually ) so repeated questions just get stonewalled, whilst them that know me know when to leave it.

    By Redinblack62
    March 21, 2019
  • got some inspiration

    By lancelot joseph
    March 21, 2019
  • Hello all, I don’t really socialize much – I drink mostly at home, alone or with family and friends. I guess the tricky part is refusing an offered drink, not the amount of alcohol that may be around.

    By Belinda Palmer
    March 22, 2019
  • Good times with great friends and fine wine: certain people or places have such strong drinking associations – feel like I need to avoid altogether but enjoy the company of these people – need to separate the two

    By Uma
    March 22, 2019
  • I’m ok in the questions department. I’ve pretty much told everyone now as its almost 6 months so not that much hassle any more. What I find very hard is being exposed to drinkers as the night wears on. It gets so trying. I know I was the same but its just no fun listening to the ranting and the slurring and this sounds mean but the ‘rubbish’ that comes out during conversations. I have to leave early so that I skip the slippery slope. It definitely gives you pause for reflection. How did I come across with a bottle of red wine under my belt?

    By Triple J
    March 23, 2019
  • I was at a party and an old school friend called me “boring” for not drinking at a party we were at. I told him “boring” was drinking every weekend and wasting a day with a hangover. I said my life was far from boring since I stopped drinking and listed off some of the amazing things I now do on weekends because I am feeling physically and mentally good. He chugged down his beer and moved on to someone else. It’s been 2 years now since I’ve stopped and I rarely get asked anymore.

    By Miranda
    March 28, 2019
  • I stopped drinking 10 years ago and the reality is i dont actually have to provide a reason or excuse other than i dont drink anymore! And if people ask why i just say because it was a personal health choice. Then u get people starting to turn around and look at themselves and talk about their own drinking habits. I find it quite funny.

    By Doug
    April 17, 2019
  • This will sound counterintuitive, but I find that making a point of not drinking sometimes drains more of my energy than necessary based on the reactions from the people around me – especially if I don´t know the people that well or some of the people in the group are not close friends. People seem to pay far more attention to you and are much more keen to get you to have a drink when they are aware you are not drinking for some reason. I will have a tonic water or a soda and lime, which looks a bit like an alcoholic drink or I buy an alcohol-free red wine to sip on at dinner or an event. For some reason, people just feel more comfortable when they think you are drinking too, so if I can, I just try not to draw attention to the fact that I am not drinking. Especially in the beginning of cutting back/no drinking when one is feeling a bit wobbly, I find this helpful!

    By Tam
    July 8, 2019
  • I do the same thing that “Tam” does, and order a soda water with lime. It’s served in a cocktail glass and most people just assume you’re enjoying a vodka Sprite or whatever and don’t bother you! I haven’t ordered a non-alcoholic wine or beer before, but I might try!

    By Catie
    January 27, 2020
  • I gave up drinking just over a year ago when I did Dry January. I am happily alcohol free and never want to go back. However, I find that in social situations some people – including close friends, family and work colleagues can be suspicious, even angry with me for not drinking. Some have said that they believe I will be judging them and that they will have to watch what they say around me. It’s as if they think I am a completely different person. I find it much easier to drink an alcohol free version of whatever everybody else is drinking. If people think you’re drinking alcohol they tend to leave you alone. And once they’ve had a few they don’t care if you’re drinking or not.

    By Rachel
    February 1, 2020
  • When I’m out enjoying a yummy meal and when I’ve had a terrible day at work. 😩

    By Kathryn
    August 20, 2020
  • I’ve not had a drink for 8 years now. Throughout that time I noticed that my friends who are acknowledged alcoholics and have no intention of changing don’t press me at all on why I am not drinking, it’s just an accepted thing that I don’t drink. The people that always ask and try to get me to drink are my so called friends that do not want to admit they have a problem, and they feel uncomfortable around me when they are drinking. That’s their problem, not mine. Usually I can ask what they did last weekend or the weekend before that and it’s the same, nothing much, they were hungover. I, on the other hand, can generally reel off a whole bunch of things that I do at the weekends. Usually this gets the reply of ‘Oh I would love to do something like that’. O.K, so why don’t you? Maybe my not drinking will in a roundabout way inspire them to stop if they have something to aim for. I don’t feel bad about not drinking, ever.

    By Paul Johnson
    December 28, 2020
    • Why should you have to explain at all. You don’t have to explain why you don’t take heroine or smoke weed.
      I used to get frustrated at having to explain myself. Now, when someone asks why I’m not drinking, I simply say “because I don’t want to!”

      By Heather.
      November 19, 2021
  • At a party I just fill a wine glass with water. Everyone just assumes I’m drinking white wine.

    I actually have two reasons, but I rarely elaborate on them, the first is ulcerative colitis. The second is I don’t enjoy drinking or drunk people.

    By Kerry Russell
    July 25, 2022
  • I found this spot on, and very well written! 🙂

    By Nicola
    September 17, 2023
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