Kate's Blog

Secretly Sober? How To Turn Down Drinks & Deal With Friends

You would think it’d be no big deal to tell the people around you that you’ve decided to stop drinking. After all, if you suddenly announced you were on a diet or quitting smoking, no one else would care, right? In fact, they might even be supportive. Yet somehow, booze is different.
Alcohol has become so ingrained in our culture that not drinking – i.e. not pouring a toxic, liquid poison down your neck every night – is considered unusual. A bit weird. Not cool. Sobriety has an image problem and for those of us who don’t drink, it’s really, really annoying.
When you’re trying to quit, the absolute last thing you need is a barrage of questions about it, especially if you’re not sure what your long term plans are. So what should you say when well meaning friends suggest that ‘just one won’t hurt’? How do you refuse a drink or explain your sobriety when you’re not quite ready to tell all? Here are 5 tips for navigating this situation:

pink1-minKeep it simple.

If people ask questions, then often a simple “I’m not drinking tonight” or “I just don’t feel like drinking” is enough. Your drinking is your business and no one else’s, so don’t feel that you need to justify your behaviour or launch into some long explanation.

pink2-minPrepare a white lie (or two).

At the risk of contradicting the point above, it is worth having a response prepared in case someone just won’t let it go or keeps pestering you to drink. There are loads of things you can say: I’m on a diet, I’m on a health kick, I don’t feel very well, I’ve got to be up early, I’m really tired etc, etc. Nowadays, it’s also really common to take a month off from drinking as a challenge or to raise money for charity.

pink3A-minBe the designated driver.

If you drive, start taking the car everywhere. You can’t drink and drive – everyone knows that. One of the things I love most about sobriety is being able to arrive when I want and leave when I want. No more messing about with taxis or having to depend on other people for a lift.

pink4a-minGet your own drink or buy the first round.

Be in control of your liquids and choose them wisely. Something like fizzy water or tonic water is good because if it’s served in a nice glass, it will easily pass for something stronger. Plus, it means that if you are offered alcohol, you can say no because you already have a drink in your hand.

pink5A-minSet the tone.

You can show up and create a terribly awkward experience for yourself by feeling shameful and embarrassed. Or, you can choose to adopt more of an ‘I-don’t-give-a-damn’ attitude and show everyone how it’s done. Remember, most people will never do what you’re doing – they’ll never be brave enough to put down their glass and work out how to have fun, stone cold sober. So don’t let anyone make you feel like you’re the odd one out; you’re just way ahead of the game. You’ve made the decision not to drink and that’s amazing – now make sure you own it!

tinystarGot any tips to share?

I’d love to hear how you’ve dealt with this situation. What’s been your experience? Please let us know your thoughts and advice in the comments below.

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. 


36 Responses

  1. I could totally relate to this post! When I first got sober 4.5 years ago, I was so worried about what people would think or say. Now, I feel so glad that I quit and I could care less what people think. I love your blog, Kate, thank you!

    1. Thanks Sharon. It’s funny how we change as time goes on! Congratulations on your 4.5 years 🙂

  2. Thanks Kate, this is so timely. I appreciate the helpful reminders. This morning I went to breakfast with friends and told a little white lie-I said that I was doing a 100 day challenge to give up wine with a friend. The white lie part included “a friend” (though I do have many online friends now :-)) It just made me feel less alone and somehow less worried to share. The conversation worked out very well. One of my friends even said that she is interested in learning more.
    Getting there! Slowly but surely.

    1. Oh, I love the “100 day wine challenge” idea! Thank you for sharing that and best of luck to you. I may try that out myself.

    2. Well done Tina 🙂 Mentioning the 100 day challenge is a really good idea. I’m pleased to hear it went down well!

  3. To start with, I told friends I was doing Dry October for charity. That worked for the people who were saying ‘do on, have just one’ / ‘it’s so and so’s birthday’ / ‘don’t be a wet blanket, it’s a celebration’. Then I found two simple phrases that I repeated like a stuck record:
    Q: why have you stopped drinking?
    A: My life works better this way (even before it was true. Now it is true, almost 9 months AF, but it wasn’t to start with because it was so tough)
    Q: is it for ever?
    A: it’s for now.
    Kate is right, we don’t have to explain. It is our business and ours alone. But I just share these short simple replies because they are more useful to me than long winded explanations.

    1. I love the “my life works better this way” response, I hadn’t thought of that. It’s a really good answer – simple (and very true, of course!)

  4. It’s been 11 months for me and it was hard for people to accept at first. Now everyone in my circle has got used to it, it makes me so thankful I’m alcohol free. Unfortunately it is hard at first for people to accept and that makes me feel sad that we live in a society that makes you feel such a bore by not drinking X

    1. Congratulations on your 11 months Jayne! I completely agree with you about attitudes towards drinking and sobriety. It’s strange that we’re like this, considering how tough we are on other drugs, including cigarettes.

  5. It gets easier with time especially if you still enjoy going to venues where drink is served and enjoyed by others- but only when you want to. Health/weight loss are good semi excuses- most adults want to lose weight and most who stop drinking, do! Otherwise ‘it’s not for me,’ is a good short answer.

  6. When people ask me “why don’t you drink?” I tell them “I used to flip over cars and burn buildings to the ground”. This ends up in laughing and leaving the topic. In case the joke is not enough and the one asks me continuously, I tell the truth (I feel I had enough, period).
    When someone asks if “this will be forever?” I say “I do it like Forrest Gump. ‘Why do you run? Because I feel like it'” Now, I feel like not-drinking.

  7. How apt to read this weeks blog. I had a function and a party at the weekend. It felt strange not to drink, as the night carried on sadly one girl in particular was getting quite drunk stained teeth from the red wine and the face flushed. Not a good luck. I drove there and back a very first in my new life I was the driver but asked a million times to have a wine. The weirdest thing happened the next morning I woke up as if I was hungover. I kept starting in the mirror and almost searching for a guilt sign or moment, but there wasn’t any. think I was just shattered from all the talking I did.
    We are out again tonight and I have already decided not to drink and that is the final decision as Kate suggests. I am too early into this to say I will never drink again and too frightened to tell anyone as I was the home alone drinker. I love MorningWalkers say. Q: Is it forever? A: It is for now.
    A wonderful lift to read your blogs Kate, look forward to them each week and all your amazing ladies sharing.

  8. This is such an amazing blog Kate and I love reading all of the comments , and identifying with like-minded women. Sobriety can be lonely sometimes, and it’s nice to know you aren’t alone in this journey. I like the idea of saying I’m doing a challenge…people seem to accept and support that reason more easily. I’m 2 days shy of 100 and excited to continue in to my next mini goal of 180 days!

    1. Amazing! Hope you have some fun stuff planned to celebrate your 100 days. Well done! 🙂

  9. Starting again ..had a horrible week with alcohol and it has scared me and left me unable to get out of bed …I know I can quit ..it has disrupted my life now for 5 years and need to move on …right now it’s so dark and my brain and spirit are depressed …so full of shame

    1. I understand the feeling of depression accompanied with the heavy drinking. You’re beating yourself up, and I hope you can give yourself a break soon. My heart goes out to you. Please make yourself get up, take a shower, and get outside into the sun. Even if you’re sitting there in a lawn chair with your eyes closed. You are of value, and you deserve happiness. My best wishes to you.

  10. Day one. Announced to my family last night that I was going on a diet effective immediately. No more fattening food and no more wine. This was an excellent way for me to break the news without any raised eyebrows.
    I made the announcement without feeling shameful and now I feel free to pursue my new life. Love this blog and the people on it. Yay for us!

  11. I love your Blog Kate. Just had to share and maybe other women can relate ….had a horrible family experience this past weekend. I didn’t want to drink at a family get together (my family is an extreme source of stress for me) but everyone asking if I want something to drink, the house is stocked to the roof with wine, beer, booze etc. Then I drink too much and my family criticizes me for overdoing it!! They tell me I need to control myself and blah blah blah. I love how others push it on you then look down on you for getting trashed and it becomes a personal defect. I understand it’s my responsibility to control my drinking but of course every party and event in my family has to have alcohol! If I don’t show up then I’m being judged as anti social. I just hate it!

    1. If your family isn’t supportive you may have to distance yourself a bit. At least for a short while until you get stronger.
      Your sobriety must be your top priority. Good luck to you. You can do it.

      1. Thanks Annie, I appreciate it. My husband keeps telling to stop going to family events just from the stress I get from attending. That only gives me a feeling that I have to drink to relieve the stress. He’s correct.

  12. Another sober night out . My morning ritual to pop into read Kate’s blog and any new comments from you beautiful beautiful ladies.

  13. I’ve tried getting sober many times before. I’m giving it an another try and today I’ve completed the first 21 days. What worked for me so far was the “I don’t drink tonight” advice and being the designated driver.
    But being surrounded by people who drink and not having barely noone to talk to about sobriety, what really helps me getting myself in a positive state of mind is finding “heroes” like athletes, musicians and actors, watching positive videos about this subject and listening to health podcast.
    I wish everybody here good luck on their sobriety !
    Peace 😉

  14. One of the most annoying assumptions I find – and this is directly a female thing – is that if I’m not drinking, I am very likely pregnant. It makes me almost always have to explain myself, because I fear if I don’t then the peoplrazzi will take my life’s details into their own hands. [Insert eyeroll emjoi here]. I try to be gracious about it, but good golly, heaven forbid a girl just not drink, just because she’s not drinking. Bless their hearts.

  15. I really want to stop drinking. My doctor can only recommend that I Join AA but I would rather try and do this on my own. I haven’t managed to stop for one day yet! I wake up every day saying today is the day and then when i leave work I’m back in the shop and the cycle starts again! I’m hoping writing this comment has some positive effect on my brain and today is the day I just drive home and do not stop at the shop!

    1. Christine – That was my life also. I would wake up every morning feeling guilty for drinking the night before and say, “not today”. Then get off work and there I was again every. single. day. Finally on 06/06/2016 I woke up and said, “today seriously IS the day”. It was one of the hardest things I’ve done and I’m now 47 days sober and feel amazing. I’m not going to lie to you it’s extremely hard which is why I’m on this blog and any other helpful forum online. You can do this and make today the day and stay on these blogs and forums and they will seriously help you. Focus on yourself and good luck!!! ((HUGS))

  16. I am amazed at how many other women have a similar problem to me. Drank 1.5 bottles of wine at home every single night after work.I am now 4 days AF. Love reading this blog for support. Regular work lunch tomorrow will be challenge as everyone always has wine. Might say i am on antibiotics to avoid the questions.

  17. My drinking started in 2008 when I went through a terrible divorce and my way of coping was drinking beer with friends. In the mean time, I met a wonderful man whom I love dearly – unfortunately we are drinking buddies. We both have highly successful careers but we both drink way too much to deal with the stress of work and daily life (so we feel like it is helping but we know it’s not). I have now put on 30 pounds and feel the strain of craving alcohol when it is time to get off of work. We distance ourselves from family and friends because we would rather hang out together and drink. I know it is not healthy and now I have to be the one to take the first step to stop. I have tried many times but it seems like something always triggers me to go back to bad habits. I came across this blog searching for answers and I feel like the support from similar professional women will help me kick the habit. I have overcome a lot of things in my life and I know I can do this and it will take time. Thanks for listening and I wish everyone who reads this success in their journey to sobriety. I just want my life and health back.

  18. For those still struggling, I’d like to suggest that you check out Kate’s Getting Unstuck course. It’s six weeks of education and inspiration, with like-minded people. I’m a graduate and almost at 7 months AF. I still come here to find motivation when I consider drinking, but I feel strong. Try it out.

  19. I am on day 31, and still not ready to really discuss everything yet with anyone beyond my spouse and one of my closest friends. Thank you so much for these tips – I find myself feeling hopeful but also raw and not ready to be vulnerable with people that I’m not extremely close to.

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