Kate's Blog

How To Say No To Free Drinks (Without Feeling Deprived)

Picture the scene: you’re trying really hard to be good when, out of nowhere, you’re offered a free drink.

It might be during a flight, on holiday, at a wedding, a party, a restaurant 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 not getting your money’s worth.

So how do you say no, without feeling deprived?

That’s exactly what I’m talking about in this week’s video.

Key points

Understand the true cost of a free drink

When it comes to alcohol, there’s always a price to pay that goes beyond money – there’s a cost to your mind and body. How are you going to feel afterwards? What kind of mood will you be in if you break your sober streak? How much time will that free glass cost?

What are your standards around free stuff?

Here’s an example of what I mean. Personally, I eat meat – but only the good quality stuff. So a burger that’s stuffed with crappy ingredients doesn’t tempt me, even if it’s free. I think alcohol’s a bit like that cheap burger – it’s a cheap, low-quality drug that often creates a cheap, low-quality experience.

Don’t be afraid to ask for something else

Remember that people generally offer you a free drink to make you feel welcome, looked after or special. It comes from a well-intentioned place – so they should want to cater for your request for something different. It’s no big deal. You are perfectly entitled to ask for a drink that works for you.

Remember… how you feel will change

Please don’t be tempted to catastrophise and imagine that sobriety will be a lifetime of facing these kinds of battles. This just feels like a big deal right now because you haven’t done it before, or haven’t done it very often. This will soon become the new normal!

Looking for help and support to create an alcohol-free life that feels good, whether you’re at home or on holiday? Click here to find out more about my online coaching programme.

Hi, I'm Kate

I founded The Sober School to show you there’s another way out of your shame that doesn’t involve AA or rehab. 


39 responses

      1. Funny that I was is this position last week.
        I was offered a glass of wine, said I would wait.
        I did order it but it was not good so I left it.
        Bc it was free, I got it.
        Lesson learned. I stopped smoking 43 yrs ago and that was hard. I have not had cigarettes since so I feel I can do this

      2. When I feel like some wine I distract myself by walking or housework until the urge dissipates .
        That can be anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes.
        I also have a piece of melon to quench my thirst.

      3. This
        I am going with friends to celebrate a 50 anniversary on Wednesday . Now I know tools to help me ask for non alcohol drink. Thank you
        first message on this blog

      1. Great advice and reassurance, putting sobriety into the normal everyday life routine and swapping the notion that drinking alcohol because its free and people pleasing, isn’t helpful to me and I need to self care and help myself to alcohol free rewarding drinks – Thanks Kate. I’m now 25 days in. I have a holiday coming up and looking forward to it being relaxing without the usual hangover feeling.

        1. That’s great Clare, 25 days is an awesome achievement so celebrate that! Wishing you a truly relaxing and memorable holiday 🙂

          1. Thanks Kate, I really do appreciate your tireless and open connection of support, it’s been sincerely welcoming and I’ll keep in touch. Thanks again and have a great summer too.

    1. I love watching and listening to you I thankyou for that..im still struggling..I work fulltime but can’t wait to get home to have my wine..I promise myself every weekend I won’t drink..but continue to fail..the urge is huge for me..I continue to try watch and listen. I hope to be like you oneday. Thankyou

  1. Thanks Kate. My summer has been full of people sayingi want to get you a drink.
    Free sounds so good along either the kind gesture but I say yes. I’ll have a water! The response is “Really? That’s It?”.
    Yep I say. Sometimes I feel I’m disappointing people so I tell them that I am so darn parched and how much ice cold water would help me. In which case I get a better attitude of people who are trying to offer me something.
    I golf 3-5 x a week and so I actually am parched.
    If its a different setting or alcohol is the question. I just laugh and say alcohol has never really done me any favors. They get it.

  2. Great blog Kate… After 2 years now, I agree with you about the feeling of truly not wanting alcohol.. I have no desire. If only the people/family knew what this side feels like now…. it’s honestly a large weight off my shoulders.
    Thanks again for all you do…. wish I could pass this along to my grown children… they don’t want to hear it….

  3. Excellent idea! 🙂
    Just want to give myself a little shout out…it’s been two weeks since I last had a drink . I know it’s early days, but I am super chuffed and feel soooo much better already . Thanks for your videos, blogs and messages, keeps me motivated! x

  4. Thanks Kate. Spot on! That “free” drink actually comes with a huge price tag. I’m flying to Hawaii in Sept and know that challenge will be there. I’m starting to prepare for it!

    1. Forward planning is key and having the right mindset goes a long way. We never plan to fail, only fail to plan…

    2. Thanks for all this invaluable advice…it’s been over a year now since I’ve had a drink..apart from a Christmas Day half a glass of prosecco…which I actually switched back to alcohol free when I had the next glass
      It’s far easier than I thought, as I feel so much better, have more energy, and it’s helping me cope with menopause symptoms more effectively. Thank you for your inspiring tips.

      1. Fantastic Lindsey! So true that menopause symptoms are exacerbated by alcohol, good idea to steer clear 🙂

  5. I actually did this whilst we have been away, I didn’t say I don’t drink I just asked what alcohol free options there wasFelt greatI’m not making excuses for anyone

  6. I am able to easily stop drinking for 2/3 weeks the start to plan having a drink, but then giving g myself permission to dri k lying to myself that I will manage this, but truly knowing I won’t be
    The drink for between 3 to 8 days.

  7. You hit it on the nose! I loved your talk! We just got back from vacation and have some big events coming up! Thank you, have you ever talked about the time where you were ‘in and out’ of quitting? That’s me!! 90% looking forward!

  8. Comment spot on it’s all about stop & think !! It’s far easier to accept and say yes but taking the time to think about how you reply is well worth the time you mentioned something on earlier blogs etc. where you say , ask yourself how you want to feel in the morning? That has stood me very well over the last 4 weeks I have asked that very thing and it seems to work for me . I have to be honest this weekend I did drink at a festival but I had lots & lots of water which I’d never consider before – felt a bit lethargic and a little anxious which was a sure sigh of the nasty effects of drinking so I’m back to no drinking and feeling much better again I think there will be occasions where I will drink but not so frequently and my aim is finally knock it on the head altogether thanks Kate you are really helping me

    1. That’s a great question to ask Lynne “how do I want to feel in the morning”. Nobody ever regrets NOT drinking! Keep going and if you ever need further support, my online coaching course on how to take a break from booze would be a great fit for you. Here are the details: https://thesoberschool.com/course/

  9. This is my first time writing here. I come from a “waste not, want not” family, so this resonates a lot with me, in addition to having this crazy unhealthy relationship with booze. Sometimes when I’m in a crowd when the free drinks come around, I’ll say out loud, “no thank you— many carbs for me!” And many people will nod in agreement, so that’s my go-to “out” since it’s seems not to appear weird to other people. Thank you all for being here.

  10. So I’m on vacation right now and had such strong physical urges last night when “free” drinks were offered by the waterfront- perfect scenario to kick back and over indulge. I like your comparison to a cheap burger, only I will substitute a cold hotdog – gross! I’m waiting for my new normal to kick in as it’s only been a few weeks. God bless!

    1. It takes a few ‘sober firsts’ to feel normal but it’s so worth it and soon becomes second nature. Cold hotdogs – yuck!

  11. It’s much easier for me to say no thank you or I’ll have seltzer water if you have it. And I do this during different occasions. However, I still have an occasional drink (after having been sober for almost 4 months. I’m not quite sure what’s going on in my head! I do know that it feels so much better when I don’t drink alcohol at all.

  12. Great advice. I think when we first stop drinking, we put a lot of our insecure feelings on others. Just worried they will think us odd. I remember when I was drinking I never cared if someone abstained. In fact I think I was happy there was more for me, until I started to admire and envy the no drinkers. I normally ask for a sparkling water with lime and/or a splash of juice if there aren’t any dedicated mocktails. I took Kate’s sober school class in January 2020 and one of the first things I learned about myself was a big fancy glass of something fizzy was really all I needed to feel special/ pampered/ relaxed etc

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