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Drink Refusal Strategies

Updated on February 26, 2011

It is easy to learn to turn down drinks at a social occasion if you are prepared ahead of time. Have your strategies in place and practice them in advance.

Two really helpful strategies for controlling you drinking are to have some alcohol-free days every week, and/or to take a complete vacation from alcohol for a while and not drink for a week or a month or however long you choose. Some people may even choose to quit drinking entirely. Whatever your choice, you may find yourself in a situation where others are drinking but you are choosing not to drink. If you want to get through this situation successfully then the best thing to do is to be prepared in advance with some strategies.

One approach which works is to just let others think that you are drinking real drinks when in fact you are drinking non-alcoholic drinks. Have a plain coke instead of a rum and coke. Or have a near beer instead of a real beer. Make friends with the bartender and tip well. Bartenders will be happy to keep your little secret for you if you tip well.

Or you might decide that you prefer to turn down the drinks. This can be the only option in some circumstances. But it is always possible to turn down drinks gracefully without alienating your friends. Some people find it easiest to use a little white lie--others are bold and just look people in the eye and say "No thanks" period. Do what works best for you. The following is a list of some drink refusals that you might want to use:

  • I am taking medications that don't mix with alcohol
  • I'm taking a vacation from booze
  • My liver is on vacation this month
  • My stomach feels queasy--I better give it a pass
  • I don't want to go off my diet
  • No thank you, but would you happen to have ice tea?
  • I'm having water for now.
  • I'll have a Red Bull instead.
  • I'm driving.
  • I'll get one later.
  • I've already had too much.
  • I just got rid of a headache better not right now

These are just a few suggestions--feel free to make up a list of your own as well. If you haven't had much practice turning down drinks then you might even want to practice these in front of a mirror before you go out to that big party. Remember: turning drinks down is much easier if you are prepared in advance.

For more useful information about controlling your drinking or quitting, please check out my book How to Change Your Drinking: a Harm Reduction Guide to Alcohol or visit HAMS - Harm Reduction for Alcohol.

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