Picture the scene: you’re trying to be good when all of a sudden, you’re offered a free drink.
It might be during a flight or on holiday; at a wedding, a party, a restaurant meal or a work conference…
Wherever it is, there’s something about turning down booze you haven’t paid for that can be extra tough.
You might feel as if you’re missing out on part of the experience, or – if you’re on an all-inclusive holiday – it can seem as if you’re not getting your money’s worth.
So how do you politely refuse a free drink, without feeling deprived?
Here are four tips to help you feel good about saying no:
Understand the true cost of free drinks
We tend to assume that free = good, so part of us automatically thinks, ‘why not say yes? Let’s make the most of it’. But free stuff isn’t necessarily good stuff. When it comes to alcohol, there’s always a price to pay that goes beyond money.
When you drink, there’s a cost to your mind and body. How are you going to feel afterwards? What kind of mood will you be in? You’ll be so annoyed with yourself for not sticking to your goals.
How much time will that free glass cost? One drink will inevitably lead to more and you’ll lose hours feeling drunk, recovering from your hangover and beating yourself up afterwards.
When you add up the true cost, is it worth it? Do you want to start your holiday feeling foggy and dehydrated? (This article explains why booze and flights are a bad mix.) How good might you feel if you didn’t drink?
Say yes to something else
Declining a free drink doesn’t mean you should be left empty handed – so make sure you get something else instead. What alcohol-free options are there? Don’t just settle for water (unless you genuinely want some). Can they make you something from the cocktail menu, but leave out the booze?
Reward yourself for sticking to your alcohol free goals by indulging in other ways too. If you normally skip dessert, order ice cream. Treat yourself to something you wouldn’t normally let yourself have. You deserve it.
Know that it won’t always be this tough
The thought of being sober on holiday – or turning down a free drink – feels hard right now because you’ve not done it before. It’s easy to catastrophize and imagine that sobriety will mean a lifetime of facing these kind of battles, but that really isn’t the case.
‘Sober firsts’ – i.e. the first time you stay sober in a situation where you normally drink – are often tough. You’re breaking an association and choosing a different behaviour. It’s going to push you out of your comfort zone and feel a bit awkward.
However, the next time you’re in a similar situation, it’ll feel better because you know you can do it. The time after that will be even easier. Sobriety won’t always feel like such hard work – the hardest part is right now. It’s all up from here!
If you catch yourself falling into one of those ‘I’m missing out’ spirals, force yourself to stop and list five things you’re grateful for. When our attention is solely on what we can’t have, we tend to get tunnel vision and miss all the amazing things happening around us. Focusing on what you’re grateful for gets you out of your own head.
I recommend asking this question: ‘Why isn’t this moment enough without alcohol?’ Stop to consider whether you really need a mind-altering substance in order to enjoy a fun party or a beautiful holiday. Is it not enough on its own? Pause for a moment and just be grateful to be having the experience in the first place. Appreciate it, just as it is.
If you need support to stop drinking or take a break from booze, click here for details of my online course.
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