How to Turn Down Alcohol in Social Settings

Content medically reviewed by Vicky Magobet, PMHNP-BC, on February 10, 2020.

From weddings to work parties and birthday celebrations to New Year's Eve gatherings, it seems like there are countless social opportunities where celebrating goes hand-in-hand with an alcoholic drink. If you're on the road to recovery, it can feel like there's a spotlight being shone on each drink, and dodging the spotlight can feel like you're bringing the attention to yourself instead.

If you're anxious about people asking personal questions about your alcoholic abstinence or worried about your ability to resist succumbing to social pressure, it's best to arm yourself with some strategies ahead of time. There are plenty of ways to subtly turn down alcohol in a social setting and still enjoy the party — it may just entail a little planning before you enter the room.

Bring a Sober Friend

Often, the hardest part of refusing an alcoholic drink is the fear of standing out and drawing attention to your situation. You might also be worried about the temptation of accepting a drink if a host or friend offers you one. To combat this anxiety, bring along a friend who has committed to staying sober for the night, too.

Whether they're a friend also going through recovery or just a pal who's agreed to support you for the social event, having a wingman can go a long way in protecting your sobriety without making you feel self-conscious.

Keep Your Hands Full

What's the best way to avoid being offered a drink? Keep one in your hands at all times during social situations! Make sure you continually top off your non-alcoholic beverage of choice, and other party-goers won't even notice you're keeping your drinks virgin. If you're uncomfortable answering questions about why you're staying away from alcohol, a tonic and lime is an easy way to blend in without risking your recovery.

Steel Yourself in Advance

Make sure you don't enter the social setting dealing with things that will weaken your defenses, such as hunger or tiredness. Instead, make sure you're well-rested and fully fed before the party begins. This will help keep your inhibitions raised and make you feel stronger when it comes to creatively turning down drinks or, if you're comfortable, explaining your situation.

Simply Say, "No Thank You"

Just because alcohol is expected or considered the norm, doesn't mean you have to feel pressured to drink. In fact, if you expect that there will be alcohol flowing in your social setting, don't forget that you have the power to politely refuse. You don't need to explain unless you wish to — simply saying no, and ordering or requesting a non-alcoholic drink will suffice.

If this refusal leads to any pressure, it may be time to consider which people in your life are serving as triggers or roadblocks to your recovery.

Explain That You Have Quit Drinking

If you're in a social situation where you feel comfortable being honest, it's perfectly acceptable to explain to anyone offering you a drink that you are recovering from alcohol addiction. This conversation should only happen on your own time, and when you're ready, but complete honesty about any former alcohol abuse is always an option when it comes to turning down alcohol.

Take the First Step on Your Recovery Journey with Diamond House Detox

Located in northern California, Diamond House Detox is a premier drug and alcohol substance abuse detox center. We provide a warm and welcoming atmosphere for our clients, following an evidence-based medical model of treatment that helps heal the whole person — mentally, physically and emotionally. To learn more about our center and our treatment plans, reach out to Diamond House Detox today!

Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner at Diamond House Detox
Vicky is a board certified Family Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner, certified by the American Nurses Credentialing Center. She began her nursing career in healthcare by working in the intensive care unit, and then an inpatient psychiatric hospital. After realizing the mental health needs of both the patients and the families she served, she became a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner. Throughout her experience working with clients, she has developed a passion for those with dual diagnoses and specializes in helping individuals recognize the issues driving their substance use. This recognition has been crucial to the individual’s success in treatment. Vicky opened Diamond House Detox so that she can address these issues early on in a therapeutic environment to allow clients to transition to the next level in their recovery.
Vicky Magobet
Latest posts by Vicky Magobet (see all)