Take the pressure off responses – how to tell others you’re not drinking

“Let me buy you a drink.”

“What are you drinking? My shout.”

“C’mon just one drink, it’s not going to make a difference.”

What do you say when other’s offer you a drink in social situations? 

Are you worried about feeling in control of the conversation as you make changes to your drinking habits?

While you don’t owe anyone an explanation about your reason for not drinking, having a set of responses ready to go can make all the difference in backing yourself and feeling confident.

Being prepared for questions ultimately gives you power over your decision, and minimises any feelings of anxiousness you may be working through. Workshopping a series of short scripts to communicate to friends and strangers that you aren’t drinking could help these questions become a non-issue.

If you’re anxious about how a conversation might escalate, preparing responses in advance for all sorts of social situations can be extremely empowering. It enables you to think through each scenario ahead of time and rehearse what you’ll say. It also helps you stay focussed on your goal and feel better about resisting pressure to accept a drink.

If you’re still feeling social anxiety without alcohol, try matching your prepared responses with visualisation strategies and soothing exercises for self-care. Check out Hello Sunday Morning’s consulting psychologist, Briony Leo’s encouraging tips in our recent Hello Sunday Morning Tips and Hacks series.

At the end of the day, any strategy before you step into a room could help ease any anxiety in a conversation, and support you in articulating your choices.

Let’s try these common scenarios: 

Person offers: Would you like a drink? Let me buy you a drink? 

My response:

  • No, thank you, I’m not drinking tonight 
  • I’m good – thanks anyway
  • No thanks – I’m taking a break from drinking
  • No thanks – I’m tonight’s designated driver
  • Thanks, that’s OK, I don’t drink. What else do you have?  Do you have soda water? 
  • No thanks, I’ve got an early start tomorrow / have to work / have an early appointment. 

 

Person persists: They’re not taking ‘no’ for an answer

My response:

  • No, thank you, I’m not drinking tonight 
  • I’m just not drinking right now 
  • No, thanks, I don’t want to
  • No thanks, I’m on a health kick right now 
  • Thanks, but I took a break from alcohol and really liked the difference 
  • I decided to make some changes in my life and alcohol was one of them. Thanks for your offer though  
  • I really appreciate the offer, I’m cutting back (or not drinking) right now 

(to focus on my health / to take care of myself) and I’d really appreciate it if you’d help me out.

 

Person continues to persist: Asks you more in-depth questions, continues to push the point, or even buys you a drink and ignores your response. 

  • I really appreciate you offering, but honestly, I feel much better when I’m not drinking 
  • I’ve realised I’m much happier without a drink, but thanks for the offer 
  • I’ve had some health effects from drinking, so I’m really focussing on taking care of myself right now
  • Please don’t let my decision stop you from having a drink, I’m honestly happy hanging out with my water / soda / soft drink. 

Person suggests meeting up for a drink

My response:

  • I’d love to catch up, but I’m not drinking right now
  • I’d love to catch up, but as I’m not drinking right now, can we meet for a coffee instead?
  • It would be great to see you, but I’m having a break from alcohol. How about we meet for a walk / go to a movie / head out for brunch instead?


Knowing your ‘no’ and being sure of yourself 

The Hello Sunday Morning team have compiled a host of other suggestions too.

While every person’s experience with alcohol and approaching sobriety can be different, knowing your ‘no’ and having resistance strategies will help you relax into the social events you may have been previously dreading.

And, in addition to the words we bring to a conversation, our energy and focus can also make a difference:

  • Deliver your response in a clear, firm, and friendly way
  • Avoid vague answers or long-winded explanations that you feel like you can’t get away from
  • Rehearsing your words in a positive way, or giving questions minimal time, can be just as effective. “No, thank you, I’m not drinking tonight” can be short, sweet and to the point. 

Perhaps your confidence and surety in delivering these responses could also inspire someone else. You might find yourself having a conversation with someone who is sober curious and keen to learn from you in making their own changes.

Have you had a difficult conversation that you managed to move through with a great response and outcome? We’d love to learn what worked for you. 

If you’re looking for company while you are learning to message that you’re moderating your drinking, The Daybreak app’s Community Support is filled with supportive suggestions and online discussions that might be useful too. 

17 Comments

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  • I’ve started saying, oh I only drink on Sundays. Ha ha! Unless it’s. Sunday and then I pick another day of the week. But honestly, I don’t socialize with anyone I can’t say no to anymore. I’m really open about my attitude to booze. I’m going for 300 dry days this year and if you stand still for long enough I’ll tell you about it.

    By Lucy Bloom
    |
    January 15, 2022
  • “I’ll just have my usual: tonic, soda with ice and lime. Tastes like it’s got gin in it without the headache. And it’s cheaper!”

    By joanne wilkinson
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    January 15, 2022
  • I say ‘I’ve decided not to drink alcohol because of the health effects. There are some amazing non alcoholic spirits, wines and beers, would you like to try one?’

    By HHannah
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    January 15, 2022
  • When I first stopped drinking, I simply said “not right now; gonna drink a little water first. Maybe later.” They quit asking after they had a few drinks…LOL. Now they don’t ask anymore…

    By Ann
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    January 15, 2022
  • I remember back in my very early 20’s and after telling my friends I wasn’t drinking tonight…I was told I WAS drinking and I didn’t have a say in the matter! I wish I could tell my people pleasing younger self how to handle this better. ie tell them to f#ck off, and don’t hold back about it! Or just leave and find better friends (which I eventually ended up doing)

    By John W
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    January 15, 2022
  • I don’t drink (alcohol). Who are these people who find it difficult to accept this information? Do they insist their non smoker friends smoke a cigarette?

    By Mary
    |
    January 15, 2022
  • I just say been there done that..liver won….just a soda.

    By Wilson R
    |
    January 15, 2022
  • I stopped drinking almost 7 years ago at age 58. I just tell people it’s for health reasons as I can’t handle the morning after, even after a couple of drinks.

    By Kev
    |
    January 15, 2022
  • Might be a function of age (I’m in my early 50s) but no one ever pressurises me to have a drink. I did have a slightly awkward situation a couple of weeks ago. I went out for a drink with a mate and he went to the bar to get a round in. I asked him to get me a Heaps Normal. For some reason, I thought that I’d better go and check that he heard me so I went to the bar and sure enough he was getting two of whatever he was having. So, I had to remind him I was off the sauce. He was fine about it but I could see how in a similar situation it might take a bit of resolve not to have the beer he bought out of politeness. So for that reason, it is important to remind people that you are not drinking (alcohol)

    By Richard
    |
    January 15, 2022
  • “I just realized one day that alcohol was getting in the way of the life I wanted to live.” Then I change the subject. If they are sober-curious, they will ask me more questions, which I welcome (self-professed sobriety evangelist here). Otherwise, we move on to other topics. This script has served me well. Who can argue with someone trying to live their best life???

    By Tera
    |
    January 16, 2022
  • The link doesn’t seem to work.

    By Matt
    |
    January 16, 2022
    • Thanks for letting us know, Matt! We fixed the issue. Please let us know if those links still aren’t working.

      By Hello Sunday Morning
      |
      January 17, 2022
  • One simply says that you’re the designated driver,.. people always accept that one and are secretly relieved that they can then get on the piss happily knowing they don’t have to pay or wait for a taxi.

    By Jennifer
    |
    January 16, 2022
    • I usually tell people I’ve drank my share and if I drink anything else I’ll be drinking from someone else’s allotments. And, I don’t want a fight over drinking anyone else’s share.

      By David
      |
      January 17, 2022
  • I was inspired by Billy Connolly! My answer is ‘no thanks, I managed to get through my lifetime supply of alcohol early’. This gets a laugh or at least a smile, but is definite .

    By Sue Cooper
    |
    January 18, 2022
    • Awesome comments,I can relate to yours and it made me smile.

      By Brooke
      |
      February 1, 2022
  • If someone is being pushy, I just say, “Do you have any idea how many calories are in alcohol‽” Either they’re compelled to tell me how thin I am (win!) or it makes them feel bad about how many empty calories they’re consuming and they shut up (win!).

    By Carrie
    |
    June 18, 2022
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