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4 Great Ways to Respond to “Why Aren’t You Drinking?”


January 6, 2018

Maintaining sobriety through the holiday season is a challenge, sometimes a big one. Once the calendar turns over to a brand new year, there are plenty of other social occasions on the horizon that can present similar temptations.

New Year’s Eve, of course, is a wildly popular day to drink. Not too long afterward are the Super Bowl, Valentine’s Day, and St. Patrick’s Day. In 2018, Mardi Gras falls one day before Valentine’s Day, offering a potential double dose of peer pressure.

In many situations, simply saying “No thank you” is sufficient when someone offers you alcohol. Good hosts are happy to offer you water, coffee, soda, or some other non-alcoholic alternative. Unfortunately, however, there are people who do not take you at your word and they might ask why you are not drinking. For the person who is maintaining sobriety, it can help to have several canned answers to give to people to make it clear that you are not drinking. Here are four you can consider.

1. I am a recovering alcoholic.

If you are comfortable talking about your sobriety, this answer is almost certain to shut down someone who insists on your giving a reason for abstaining. In some cases, it can shed a whole new light on what alcohol addiction and recovery are. Every time people realize that the recovering alcoholic is often someone just like them, a little more of the stigma surrounding addiction and recovery is chipped away.

2. I am driving.

You may not feel like telling your host that you are a recovering alcoholic. That is fair, and it is your right. In those cases, saying “no” backed up by “I’m driving tonight” should be sufficient to put the issue to rest. Nobody wants to be the person responsible for putting an impaired driver on the road.

3. I cannot drink alcohol because of the medicine I am taking.

Maintaining sobriety

Few people will challenge a doctor’s recommendation that you do not drink because of medications you take.

If someone insists you give a reason for abstaining from alcohol, you can say that it interacts badly with a medication you are taking. In fact, alcohol does interact unfavorably with a number of common medications, including blood thinners, allergy meds, medication for heart problems, arthritis, depression, diabetes, and high blood pressure.

4. I have to get up early and do not want a hangover.

Be prepared when you say you have to get up early and do not want a hangover for people to tell you things like, “This drink doesn’t cause hangovers!” You may want a backup response ready just in case. However, for the typical responsible adult, who has probably experienced a hangover, this response will be sufficient.

5. I do not feel well.

“No thank you. I’ve felt like I’m getting a headache all day. I’m going to see if I can find a glass of water or soda instead.” Beware, however, that this tactic may not permanently end people offering you alcohol, particularly if you appear to be feeling better later. Try to have a glass of water, a soft drink, or a cup of coffee in your hand at all times, so you do not appear to “need” anything.

Maintaining sobriety can be more challenging when you interact with people who have trouble taking “no” for an answer. Although you do not owe anyone an explanation as to why you are abstaining from alcohol, you are wise to have a few responses in your pocket to answer the people who press the issue.

For most people, a simple “No thank you” is fine. Others may continue to apply peer pressure and need to be cut off unequivocally. Be ready with several responses, and if they do not work, perhaps it is time to find an excuse to leave. No one should make you feel like you have to defend your decision not to drink. Have questions about maintaining sobriety? Feel free to contact us today.

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