Five ways to say no to a drink

Mar 22, 2023

Before I quit drinking for good in 2017, I was in a bargaining/moderation phase for four years – yep, four years. 

During this time, I knew that drinking as much or as often as I had been wasn’t good for me, but it still hadn’t occurred to me to consider quitting completely.

In this phase, I found it easy to abstain from drinking on my own, but struggled in social situations. 

If, like me, you find it harder to say no when you’re with friends, colleagues or family members, here are five tips to make things easier. 

1. Have a plan

If you fail to plan, you’re planning to fail! I got tripped up so many times by having a vague desire to drink less, which would inevitably not materialise leaving me disheartened and feeling like a failure. The problem is that after two drinks, the sober you with the vague plans gets completely overruled by the tipsy you – especially if it was only a vague plan in the first place. Instead, have a solid approach and plan of attack. What are you going to say when people offer you a drink, what’s your get out clause for leaving early. Don’t leave things to chance. 

2. Show no weakness

I would often make the mistake of saying something at the beginning of the evening like: “I’m trying not to drink much.” As Yoda says, "Do or do not. There is no try!”

Saying that you are trying shows doubt to your friends and encourages them to  talk you out of it. And they will think they are doing you a favour in the process! So instead, say you are “not drinking tonight” and make it final and non-negotiable. Add in any reason/excuse/justification you think will help but don’t project that there’s any doubt in your mind, or your friends will exploit it.

3. Start with a soft drink

If you start with a soft drink this will make it a lot easier to continue that way for the rest of the night. Once you get past the awkwardness of the first drink order, by the second round the question is usually just, “Same again?” and you get to ride that train all the way home.

By having a soft drink first, you’re not necessarily committing to not drink all night – either to yourself or anyone else. But you’re setting a good precedent.  You can say you’re dehydrated or anything you think will help get it over the line. Once you’ve had one, you may find you’re having a good time anyway and you don’t “need” a drink after all.

4. Drive

A tried and tested way to avoid drinking or seriously limit your intake is to drive.  Encouraging drivers to drink more hasn’t been popular in quite some time, so if you’re driving you have a particularly strong get out clause – and will save yourself the taxi home plus whatever else you would have drunk.

5. Get your story straight

There’s no need to outright lie, but coming up with a solid story about why you’re not drinking beforehand will hugely help your chances of success. You could cite training for an event, an early start, that you’re taking medication or even something more vague like “medical advice”. There is plenty of medical advice to limit your drinking! 

If you’re looking for more successful strategies for quitting or moderating your drinking, join one of our Wise Monkey Way programs. 

Spots are filling up fast for our April live online group program – don’t miss out on this chance to take our most effective course.


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