How to Reject a Drink at Social Gatherings

The decision to stop drinking alcohol is often difficult—especially because social situations will always exist. For someone in recovery, rejecting a drink in public can feel isolating, stressful—even scary.

They might not trust themselves to succeed or trust drinkers to leave them alone. Thankfully, there are several ways to circumvent the pressure to drink associated with going to a party or bar.

Tips for Rejecting Drinks

  1. While obvious, the easiest way to avoid the temptation of alcohol is to avoid places and situations where people will be drinking. It’s not always feasible, but it may be crucial for the first several months of sobriety.
  2. Having a sober, supportive friend can be a lifesaver. When declining drink after drink becomes exhausting, a good wingman or woman will step in and change the subject or suggest getting some fresh air. There is strength in numbers!
  3. The art of saying “no” takes practice. Establishing an “out” before attending social functions provides the framework for success. It can be something as simple as “I have to wake up early tomorrow” or as brave as, “No thanks, I’m in recovery.” Tread lightly, however, as the latter may draw more unwanted attention or pressure and a flood of new questions.
  4. Keeping a non-alcoholic drink in hand is a great deterrent for un-welcomed questions. If the bartender or host knows the situation, they can help by pouring “mixed drinks” (Coke, soda water, etc.) to help all guests feel comfortable.
  5. Sponsors exist for a reason! They’re a valuable resource for sobriety and should be utilized when temptation presents itself and feels unmanageable. Stepping outside to make a phone call can provide immediate reassurance and calm anxieties and fear.
  6. Leaving the party early can be necessary when people won’t let up on the pressure. In fact, it may be the default action until abstaining from alcohol starts to feel easier and more natural. It’s still possible to celebrate a birthday party, graduation, or wedding while bowing out gracefully before the shot glasses come out.

CLARE Foundation

At CLARE Foundation, we know that having a concrete plan for rejecting alcohol can mean the difference between relapse and another successful day to check off on your calendar. Please contact us for more information.

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