11 Easy Ways to Say 'No' to Alcohol

You thought you left peer pressure behind when you outgrew those high school football buddies, but Sam from marketing is here to tell you otherwise. He’s urging you with every bit of his bad suit, toothy grin, and slicked back hair to take a shot with the rest of the staff.

Or maybe you don’t know a Sam, but you’re reuniting with an old friend for dinner. Great conversation is flowing, but they are hating that you won’t take them up on their offer to split a bottle of Merlot.

It can be challenging, especially in the early phases when you decide to quit drinking, to find the right words to say ‘no’ to alcohol. So we’ve found them for you. As we’ve said before, if there were ever an occasion for stretching the truth, sticking to your sobriety goals is it. Here are 11 easy ways to say ‘no,’ from the straight up to the indirect to the fibbing.

“No thanks, I’m good with what I’ve got.”

The power of the mocktail, club soda with lime, or mineral water is not to be underestimated. Having a non-alcoholic drink in your hand will not only help you feel more natural, it will also put those around you (including bartenders) at ease.

“Thanks, I’m okay.”

Although Nancy Reagan’s ‘Just Say No’ campaign wasn’t a hit in the eighties, often all you need is a confident ‘no’ stated with a smile. If you’re questioned further, you can then decide to go into your personal choices or not. But a brief, polite refusal with no explanation is absolutely socially acceptable.

“I’ve had enough to drink, thanks.”

And you clearly have, right? Or you wouldn’t have decided to stop.

“I’m allergic to alcohol, I break out in handcuffs when I drink.”

This is a popular joke within the recovery community, and it’s a clever way to refuse alcohol. Just expect some questions about your history if you choose this line.

“It’ll give me a massive headache.”

What, when, and who you reveal your new lifestyle choice to is entirely up to you. If now isn’t the right time to announce to your coworkers that you’ve been hitting the booze too hard every night and you need a change, then a physical ailment is a perfect excuse not to drink.

“I’m waking up early in the morning.”

Everyone understands the need for a restful night of sleep. Is there any better reason not to hit the bottle?

“I’m on antibiotics (supplements, another medication) right now.”

If you don’t feel like faking the migraine, but still don’t want to give up too much information, this is another white lie that many people choose to use. Booze and pills don’t mix, and people will respect that.

“I’m picking up my kids on the way home.”

Very few people will hassle with you wanting to provide a safe ride for children. No children? Sub in another important person if you feel comfortable. Better yet, offer to be the designated driver if you’re in an inebriated crowd.

“I’m in a green juice phase.”  

Why let alcohol ruin your healthy vibes? Grab a green juice and you’ll be good to go.

There are plenty of other ways to say no. It’s up to you to weigh the pros and cons. Try to plan in advance which excuses you are comfortable with and prepare for any potential resistance. Refusing alcohol in social situations is an art, not a science. It might feel funny at first, but with practice, it becomes second nature.

Feel like all you do is refuse booze? It might be time to add some new people and places to your life. But there will always be another work party with an open bar. Luckily, there’s also an endless amount of ways to refuse alcohol.


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As Workit Health's Community Lead, Kali Lux leans in to the culture gap between addiction, recovery, and medicine. She's interested in finding solutions that work for substance users better than drinking or drugging does, and believes Workit is one of them. She's written extensively on her own experience through addiction into long-term recovery. You can connect with her on Twitter @kalireadsbooks.