5 Ways to Tell People You Don't Drink (2023)

Picture this: You’re at a family dinner and someone makes a toast. You hold up a pint glass of water, surrounded by delicate wine glasses, and immediately hear “[Insert your name here] needs a drink!” Or: “It’s bad luck to toast with water!”

There are lots of reasons you might choose not to drink. Maybe you’re pregnant, you’re on medication, you’re driving, you’re cutting down for health reasons, you’re on a cleanse, or maybe you just don’t like the taste. Regardless of the motive, it’s not anyone’s business.

(Video) 3 ways to tell people that you don’t drink alcohol

Depending on your social circles and where you choose to socialize, choosing not to drink might feel like the path less traveled. But data suggests it’s pretty common.

Only 60 percent of adults report drinking any alcohol (63 percent of men and 57 percent of women), according to a2021 poll carried out by analytics company Gallup. “However, parties and other social events are places where alcohol use tends to be more prevalent,” says Aaron White, PhD, senior scientific adviser to the director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA).

A February 2022 survey by American Addiction Centers found 29 percent of respondents reported drinking more during the holidays, for example. And that can lead to more uncomfortable questions if you choose not to imbibe, or pressure to do so.

“It is a common experience for people who choose not to drink at parties to feel pressured to do so. Questions might begin with, ‘Why are you not drinking?’ and move to comments suggesting you’re not fun, or that you should just have one,” says Dr. White.

Whether you struggle with resisting the pressure to participate in a behavior you don’t want to do, you feel irritated by the rude or judgmental comments, or any combination, there’s no denying that this unsolicited commentary can be annoying to deal with, at the least.

So, how do you stand your ground and curtail intrusive follow-up questions? Next time you’re facing this situation, the experts recommend using the following phrases and approaches.

And keep in mind, these tips are not intended for people living with alcohol use disorder. If you’re managing this condition, discuss your situation with professionals who have experience managing alcohol use disorder.

(Video) How To Easily Tell People You’re Not Drinking

1. ‘No Thanks’ or ‘I’m Good’

Cut to the chase. “The idea of not drinking should be as easy as saying ‘No thank you. I don’t want to go bungee jumping,’” says Hilary Sheinbaum, New York City-based author of The Dry Challenge: How to Lose the Booze for Dry January, Sober October, and Any Other Alcohol-Free Month.

If someone seems put off your response, quickly deflect by asking them something that’s of interest to them, she advises. Keep the conversation moving.

Lisa Amodeo, a certified alcohol and drug counselor based in Barrington, Illinois, likes this response because it keeps things casual, and it’s appropriate for environments when you may not want to go into detail about why you’re not drinking. Remember there’s nothing unusual about skipping the alcohol, and act accordingly.

2. ‘I Have an Early Morning, and I Won’t Sleep Well If I Drink’

Have an early commitment (like a meeting, workout, or class) the morning after your night out? It’s only natural to want a good night’s sleep beforehand. Sheinbaum recommends this response if you’re in a business context, since it suggests you’re driven and focused. It also works well if the people you’re talking to are into fitness. And since it’s a specific answer for a particular day, it’s a good option if you do drink on some occasions.

You might get a bit of pushback from people who think alcohol helps you sleep, Amodeo says, but that’s a common misconception. While alcohol might send you to sleep sooner, you’re likely to experience sleep disruptions as your body metabolizes it, lowering your sleep quality and leaving you feeling sleepier the next day, per theSleep Foundation.

And if they try to tell you “Just one drink won’t hurt,” remember that alcohol affects your body long after you’ve stopped sipping, per theNIAAA.

3. ‘I’m Trying an Alcohol-Free Challenge’

More people than ever are participating in alcohol-free months like Dry January or Sober October. You might be surprised to learn how many: Over one-third of legal-aged U.S. adults (35 percent) skipped alcohol for Dry January in 2022, up from 21 percent in 2019, according to research carried out by CGA, a food and drink research firm. (And of course, you can set yourself a personal challenge to go alcohol-free for a certain period at any point throughout the year!)

(Video) What to do when people ask me why I am not drinking alcohol? How to tell people you don’t drink

If you’re passing on alcohol at your next social function, you can shift the focus to your competitive spirit when managing questions about your drinking habits. Sheinbaum said this tactic worked wonders when she was on dates during a no-alcohol challenge: “It almost automatically got [my dates] to want to support my effort [and help me win].”

(Just remember people might ask you about it next time they see you: “So did you win your contest?” At this point, you could let them know whether you’ve decided to make it a permanent decision!)

4. ‘I Already Have a Drink, Thank You’

In addition to bringing your canned response, you can bring your own beverage. “When you already know what you’ll have in your hand, it’s less likely you’ll be offered something,” notes Brian Couey, PsyD, director of outpatient services at Betty Ford Center in San Diego.

The market for sophisticated alcohol alternatives has grown exponentially, says Sheinbaum, who works with bars and restaurants in New York City to expand their nonalcoholic offerings. If you can BYO, set yourself up with a quality mocktail. If you have control over the location, Sheinbaum likes the app Better Without, which locates nonalcoholic options at bars and restaurants in your vicinity.

You can even build a drink that looks like a real cocktail (club soda, ice, and lime for example) — no one will be able to tell that you aren’t drinking.

But if someone does remark on the lack of alcohol, reply with the statement above.

5. ‘Alcohol Doesn’t Sit Well With Me’

It would be downright rude for someone to push you into drinking if you say you don’t feel well. Take a page from people who are comfortable expressing their dietary needs (for example, people with food allergies or intolerances), and express how you physically don’t feel well when you drink.

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If you know that a certain food or drink is going to disagree with you (for example, because of a dietary restriction or health condition), you may feel more comfortable declining that offer, says Dr. Couey. “Have the same matter-of-fact attitude with alcohol,” he suggests.“

Many people are familiar with alcohol’s unpleasant potential side effects, which include dehydration, fatigue, headaches, stomach discomfort, and nausea, according to theNIAAA— so they’re unlikely to press you on the topic.

More Tips on Managing a Social Situation When You’re Not Drinking

With these key phrases in your pocket, hopefully people won’t press you much further about your decision. But the experts have a few more tips to help you navigate these social scenarios.

“A lot of times people try to wing it, and what ends up happening is their guard is dropped and it’s easier to succumb to pressure and take that drink,” explains Amodeo. That’s where practicing these phrases before you walk in the door can help.

“More than just refusal skills, you need good prevention planning,” adds Couey. “Know why you’re there, know how long you’re going to be there, and have your own way to leave if you need to.” For example, drinking generally gets heavier later into the night, so consider coming early and leaving early if you suspect that will be the case, he says.

If words fail, Amodeo and Couey suggest removing yourself from the event. Use the old “I have to go walk my dog” excuse, or explain that something unexpected came up with a friend. And if you’re uncomfortable, just leave, they advise. You don’t have to tell anyone.

“Sometimes it’s really hard to explain yourself because there are people who will not even take the explanations,” concludes Amodeo. In these situations, it’s always okay to simply step away.

(Video) Taylor Swift – Question…? (Official Lyric Video) How to Tell Your Friends You Don’t Drink Anymore: Your Guide to Coming Out Sober

  1. Know You Don’t Owe Anyone an Explanation. …
  2. Decide Ahead of Time How Many Personal Details You’re Comfortable Revealing. …
  3. Start with the Friends You Know Will Be Supportive. …
  4. Be Prepared for All Scenarios.

How do you tell someone you’re not drinking too much? ›

  1. ‘I’m a bit worried about your drinking. ‘
  2. ‘I want to talk to you about something: I feel that your drinking is causing you some problems. ‘
  3. ‘You seem to be drinking more lately and I think it’s having a bad effect on us. ‘
  4. ‘The family cannot afford the money you spend on alcohol. ‘

How do I tell people I don’t drink? › 5 Ways To Tell Someone You Don’t Drink

  1. “The truth is, I had a problem with drinking.” If you’re comfortable telling people the whole truth, this is the best response. …
  2. “Drinking wasn’t doing me any good.” …
  3. “I didn’t like the person I was when I drank.” …
  4. “I’m driving.” …
  5. “It doesn’t mix well with my medications.”

How do you say I dont drink? ›

  1. abstaining.
  2. abstemious.
  3. abstinent.
  4. cold sober.
  5. dry.
  6. drying out.
  7. free of alcohol.
  8. nonindulgent.

What to say to friends when you dont want to drink? ›

  1. No, thank you, I’m not drinking tonight.
  2. I’m good – thanks anyway.
  3. No thanks – I’m taking a break from drinking.
  4. No thanks – I’m tonight’s designated driver.
  5. Thanks, that’s OK, I don’t drink. What else do you have? …
  6. No thanks, I’ve got an early start tomorrow / have to work / have an early appointment.

How do I tell my coworkers I don’t drink? ›

If anyone asks, simply tell them that you don’t drink. If pressed further, respond that you just prefer not to and continue to repeat that as necessary. There’s nowhere they can go with that. Honestly though, having non drinkers is really no big deal in most organisations.

What to say when you dont want to drink alcohol? ›

  1. “I’m driving.”
  2. “I don’t drink.”
  3. “I want to keep a clear head.”
  4. “It makes me sick.”
  5. “I’m too busy to be hungover tomorrow.”
  6. “I have more fun sober.”
  7. “I’m in recovery.”

What is a secret drinker? ›

What is Secret Drinking? Secret drinking is a common practice among alcoholics who have a high tolerance for alcohol. Because they have to drink more to get the desired effect from alcohol, they might secretly drink before an event; some even have a name for this — pregaming.

Do true emotions come out when drunk? ›

There’s usually some version of one’s true feelings that come out when one is drunk,” Vranich said. “People dredge up feelings and sentiments from somewhere deep in their brains, so what one says or does certainly reflects what’s going on deep down.

Why do I say mean things when I’m drunk? ›

Alcohol lowers inhibition and makes people feel talkative, extroverted, and emboldened. The result is drunk blabbermouths who overshare and say embarrassing or regrettable things.

How do I tell a girl I don’t drink? ›

Rodden recommends making a comparable counteroffer by saying something along the lines of: “I live a sober lifestyle, let’s get a fun mocktail instead.” This way, you’re showing that you’re still up for social outings and willing to participate in activities without crossing your personal boundaries.

What do you do when you don’t drink anymore? ›

  1. Have an Honest Talk With Your Friends.
  2. Be Prepared for People’s Reactions.
  3. Go Places That Don’t Serve Alcohol.
  4. Develop a Few Go-To Responses.
  5. Have a Non-Alcoholic Drink on Hand.
  6. Think Fun.
  7. Create an Exit Excuse.
  8. Plan a Productive Morning After.

What to drink when you don’t want to drink? › What to drink instead of alcohol

  1. Soda and fresh lime. Proof that simple is still the best.
  2. Berries in iced water. This summery drink will keep you refreshed and revitalised.
  3. Kombucha. …
  4. Virgin bloody Mary. …
  5. Virgin Mojito. …
  6. Half soda/half cranberry juice and muddled lime. …
  7. Soda and fresh fruit. …
  8. Mocktails.

What are non drinkers called? ›

abstainer, teetotaler. (or teetotaller), teetotalist.

How do you tell your date you don’t drink? ›

All you need to say if she asks about your choice to be sober is something short, like, “I realized I get a lot more done when I don’t drink.” Or, “I lost a ton of weight a few years back and not drinking helps me maintain my willpower and keep it off.” Two sentences.

Should I go to a party if I don’t want to drink? ›

Know that it’s okay if you don’t want to drink

Whether you have decided not to drink that night, or you don’t drink at all, you should feel confident in your decision. There’s no rule that says you have to drink when you go to a party, and chances are you won’t be the only one taking who has decided not to that night.

How do you socialize if you don’t drink? › 8 Ways to Be Social Without Drinking

  1. Adopt your own signature non-alcoholic drink. …
  2. Have an excuse ready. …
  3. Be the designated driver. …
  4. Go for coffee or lunch. …
  5. Try more engaging activities. …
  6. Focus on what you have rather than what you’re missing. …
  7. Go to meetings. …
  8. Volunteer.

How do you socialize as a non drinker? › Navigating Social Situations as a Nondrinker

  1. Start with a personal pep talk. …
  2. Make a plan. …
  3. Choose a nonalcoholic beverage. …
  4. Tune in to what’s happening beyond yourself. …
  5. Enjoy the hors d’oeuvres. …
  6. Call a friend if you need support. …
  7. Feel free to leave. …
  8. Send your regrets before the event, and stay away.

Should I go to happy hour if I dont drink? ›

Many suggest—and in fact do—to go to the happy hour and simply not drink. A little seltzer with lemon, or a Coke, or cranberry juice gives you something to hold in your hand without actually drinking any alcohol.

How do you politely say no alcohol on an invitation? ›

But, if you don’t want alcohol, then tell them what you do want. Maybe it’s nothing. Invitations used to say “we invite your presence, not your presents” and that sort of thing to say “please don’t bring anything.” (You could go with a simple “no gifts please.”)

Is drinking a red flag? ›

Alcoholism & Drug Addiction

Drinking daily or drinking until inebriation a few times a week can be a red flag for a drinking problem,” says Amber Trueblood, LMFT. Reliance on drugs to get through the day, the week, or through tough spots in life is also concerning.

What are the stages of becoming an alcoholic? ›

If you or your loved ones need help to identify the signs of problem drinking, four stages of alcoholism have been identified: pre-alcoholic, early alcoholic, chronic alcoholic, and end-stage alcoholism.

Does alcohol reveal your true self? ›

Key points. While under the influence you’ll probably act differently, but that doesn’t mean drinking reveals who you really are. Alcohol lowers inhibitions, leading you to act more impulsively and care less about how others adversely regard your behavior.

Does a drunk mind speak a sober heart? ›

“A drunk mind speaks a sober heart” is a saying often attributed to French Enlightenment philosopher Jean-Jaques Rousseau, himself quite a drunk. The idea is that when we are drunk we lose our inhibitions and allow ourselves to verbalize our true thoughts and feelings, bringing our true personality traits to light.

Do you tell secrets when drunk? ›

Alcohol stifles reasoning skills and contemplating repercussions. As a result, people are more likely to tell the truth while intoxicated, offering up brutally honest, unfiltered opinions. And without the fear of consequences, alcohol can give people the courage to do or say things they ordinarily wouldn’t entertain.

What are the four types of drunks? › There are 4 Types of Drunks

  • Hemingways. These are people whose personalities don’t change much when they drink. …
  • Mary Poppins. These are people who become especially cheerful and helpful when they drink. …
  • Nutty Professors. These are people who become most uninhibited when they drink. …
  • Mr. Hydes.

What alcohol makes people angry? ›

Spirits are the most likely alcohol type to illicit feelings of aggression, while red wine most likely to make people relaxed, a new study shows.

Do drunk people remember? ›

Intoxicated subjects are typically able to recall information immediately after it is presented and even keep it active in short–term memory for 1 minute or more if they are not distracted.

What do you do when you don’t drink anymore? ›

  1. Have an Honest Talk With Your Friends.
  2. Be Prepared for People’s Reactions.
  3. Go Places That Don’t Serve Alcohol.
  4. Develop a Few Go-To Responses.
  5. Have a Non-Alcoholic Drink on Hand.
  6. Think Fun.
  7. Create an Exit Excuse.
  8. Plan a Productive Morning After.

How do you tell your date you don’t drink? ›

All you need to say if she asks about your choice to be sober is something short, like, “I realized I get a lot more done when I don’t drink.” Or, “I lost a ton of weight a few years back and not drinking helps me maintain my willpower and keep it off.” Two sentences.

What to drink when you don’t want to drink? ›

Opt for a non-alcoholic drink

There are also always alternatives, like soda, juice, or water, if you prefer.

How do you socialize if you don’t drink? › 8 Ways to Be Social Without Drinking

  1. Adopt your own signature non-alcoholic drink. …
  2. Have an excuse ready. …
  3. Be the designated driver. …
  4. Go for coffee or lunch. …
  5. Try more engaging activities. …
  6. Focus on what you have rather than what you’re missing. …
  7. Go to meetings. …
  8. Volunteer.

Can you have fun without drinking? ›

Joining a dance class, volunteer organization, martial arts club, or sports team will bring more fun into your life and offer you a clean slate to establish yourself as someone who enjoys these activities but does not drink.

Do you lose friends when you stop drinking? ›

Your friendships may change as you change your drinking, and you might decide not to see some friends as much as before. But don’t let worry hold you back from doing what’s right for you. You’ll make new friends along the way, and many of your friends will be happy to support you.

Can a drinker date a non drinker? ›

Dating a non-drinker might feel different, but it’s not an impossible challenge. And it’s important to remember that the challenge is much bigger for them than for you. Telling someone you don’t drink, especially in a situation where that’s the expected norm, takes real courage.

Should I tell my date I dont drink? ›

“The best time to tell your romantic interest that you don’t drink is as soon as the conversation comes up naturally,” Rodden tells Elite Daily. Ultimately, Rodden agrees that being upfront early on can help you weed out suitors who aren’t supportive.

Where can I go on a date if I don’t drink? › 10 Date Ideas That Don’t Involve Drinking

  • Go out for dessert. …
  • Take a walk. …
  • Check out a comedy show. …
  • Meet for a coffee. …
  • Find a local food festival. …
  • Visit a museum. …
  • Go for a dog walk. …
  • Share your favorite hobby.

What are non drinkers called? ›

abstainer, teetotaler. (or teetotaller), teetotalist.

What gives you a buzz like alcohol? ›

Drinking kava has the same positive effects of alcohol without any of the downsides. Similar to alcohol, Kava relaxes the mind and body. After a glass, you feel lightweight and all the stresses of the day start to fall away. And a drink of kava will certainly give you a happy buzz.

What can relax you like alcohol? ›


Fong says meditation can help you relax as much as a vodka martini can. Alcohol chills us out by drowning out the noise and stress. Meditation, on the other hand, helps us quiet the brain and actually relieve stress (rather than just covering it up), he says.


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