Excuses for Not Drinking: 8 Ways to Politely Say “No” To Alcohol

Coach reviewed by Namrata Pereira, CADC, MATC, CAMS, CCS on September 13, 2022

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Heading to a party, concert, or another social event can be daunting when you’re skipping out on the alcohol. This is especially true if you know that your fellow partygoers will try to peer pressure you to drink.

Whether you’re taking a break, in recovery, or simply don’t feel like drinking, here are some tips to politely turn down alcohol—without making others uncomfortable or becoming the center of attention.

1. Avoid Social Pressure (When You Can)

Social pressure can make turning down drinking an uphill battle. And contrary to popular belief, peer pressure is still a common predicament in adult life.1

In most cases, social pressure is avoidable by staying away from situations where people are drinking. But if you absolutely must attend an alcohol-fueled event, remember to load up your mental toolbox with ways to say no to alcohol.

2. Crack a Joke

Jokes can cut right through the tension when someone offers you a drink. If you want to take the humorous route, check out Claudia Christian’s tips in this holiday article for the funniest one-liners to help you turn down alcohol.

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3. Be Direct & Honest

Sometimes, honesty really is the best policy; it all depends on if the people around you can respect your boundaries. When you’re with close friends or loved ones who know and understand you, they’ll generally sympathize with you and support you.

If you’re in a situation where you feel you can be honest, try the following:

  • “No thanks, I don’t drink anymore.”
  • “Alcohol doesn’t mix well with me.”
  • “I can’t. My alcohol use gets out of hand sometimes.”
  • “I’ve decided I just feel healthier without alcohol”

Or, if it applies, hit them with the simple phrase, “I’m in alcohol recovery/detox right now.” This might take some courage because of the stigma attached to alcoholism.2 However, most reasonable people will respect that answer (and respect you for your honesty, too).

4. Step into the Designated Driver Role

car keys in ignition close-up
Photo by Ivan Shemereko on Unsplash

Being the sober cab is one of the easiest excuses for not drinking at a party. And if you’re the designated driver, you won’t have to do much explaining at all—everyone knows you can’t drink and drive.

Plus, you’ll get to see all your friends’ shenanigans from a sober point of view. And you’ll be the one telling the stories in the morning!

5. “I Have to Do [Insert Responsibility Here] in The Morning”

Whether you say you’ve got work, school, or another responsibility, no one can argue with obligations as an excuse for not drinking. Responsible adults have places to be and things to get done.

Tell them, “I can’t afford a hangover—I need enough brainpower to work tomorrow!”

6. Order an Alcohol-Free Drink

Having a drink already in your hand is a foolproof reason to say no to alcohol. Grab a nonalcoholic sparkling wine or other alcohol-free beverage to use as your “peer pressure repellent.”

Since you’ll already be holding a drink, it’s easy to say, “No thanks, I’ve already got one!”

7. Invent a Clever Excuse

Sometimes the only way to get people off your back is to give them an excuse they can’t argue with—whether it’s true or not! Try something like:

  • “I’m on a prescription that I can’t mix alcohol with.”
  • “I don’t feel very well, so I’m skipping drinking for the night.”
  • “I’m allergic.” (This is a good one if you’ve never met these people before and will never see them again.)
  • “I’m giving up drinking for lent/it’s against my religion.” (Again, another good one for strangers.)
  • “I’m trying to lose weight.”
  • “I’m training for an athletic competition.”

8. Find Support

five people talking at an office party
Photo by Antenna on Unsplash

If all your excuses for not drinking at a party fail, or if you know you’re around people who’ll be persistent in pressuring you, find a sober buddy to team up with.

You and a friend can work together to change the subject, steering the conversation elsewhere when someone offers one of you a drink. And if your goal is to drink a small amount, but avoid going overboard, the two of you can help each other stick to pre-set limits.

Stay on the Road to Recovery

Figuring out how to say no to alcohol can be tricky, especially when you’re attending events with people handing you drinks all night long.

This is where having a larger support system can be useful. Ria Health is an online program to help you quit or cut back on alcohol, all from a smartphone app. Members get weekly meetings with coaches, access to anti-craving medications, and even a Bluetooth breathalyzer to help them track their drinking.

It’s easier to stay accountable to your goals when you have support. And our program is flexible enough to fit your individual needs, without disrupting your daily life. Learn more about how it works.


Have questions about online alcohol treatment?

or call (800) 504-5360

Written By:
Alicia Schultz
Alicia is a Minnesota-based freelancer who writes for Ria Health and various other brands in the health and wellness space. Beyond addiction and recovery, she also covers topics relating to general well-being, mindfulness, fitness, mental health, and more. When she’s not writing, you can find her relaxing with her three-legged cat, trying new workout routines, and spending time with her loved ones.
Reviewed By:
Evan O'Donnell
Evan O’Donnell is an NYC-based content strategist with four years’ experience writing and editing in the recovery space. He has conducted research in sound, cognition, and community building, has a background in independent music marketing, and continues to work as a composer. Evan is a deep believer in fact-based, empathic communication—within business, arts, academia, or any space where words drive action or change lives.
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