5 Ways to Tell Someone You Don’t Drink

Your recovery journey will likely be filled with times when you’ll have to bat away offers of alcohol. This gruelling, extra layer to the recovery can be trying.

So how do you tell someone you don’t drink without giving away your sobriety?

Take solace in the fact that you’re not doing this alone. More people every day are improving their lives and joining the hordes of non-drinkers, and that’s not just those in recovery from addiction.

Instead, individuals who don’t have a drinking problem are also finding out what it’s like to have a good time without alcohol, turning down alcohol at parties and events with ease. Or so it seems.[1]

Why Do People Care If I’m Not Drinking?

The truth is most people couldn’t care less whether you are drinking; they’re usually too busy having a good time themselves.

However, there will always be one or two curious folks who are desperate to know why you’re not drinking. You may find they just won’t let it go.

Some people are what we might call politely inquisitive, or more honestly, nosey, while others are just genuinely interested.

Sadly, you may come across the odd person who just can’t let the fact that you don’t drink go. It seems to bother them, although this says more about their insecurities than anything else.

Dealing With the Questions

So, how do you deal with this? The truth is you don’t have to say anything. It’s no one’s business that you don’t drink or the why of it. You don’t owe anyone an explanation. But most people like to have an answer they are comfortable with prepared.

You can choose to give an explanation or decide not to. The choice is yours, but a choice that every sober person before you and after you will have to make at some point in their recovery.

Unprepared, you may stare blank or trip over your words as you try to think of an answer.

Give yourself some time to prepare, practise what you will say, and nerves will be taken out of the situation. Here are some tried and tested responses that let someone know you no longer drink.

1. I’m the Des (Designated Driver)

We all hate waiting for hours for a taxi, and everyone loves a free ride home. So suppose you have a car full of people getting a free ride home; no one’s going to question your reasons for not drinking.

The ‘I’m driving excuse’ is top of the list and therefore popular because it stops any messy questions you’re not ready to answer yet.

You may find yourself the designated driver anyway when finding yourself the only non-drinker at parties where lots of people are drinking.

Most people would offer a free ride rather than let people drive dangerously, walk into the road, or get an expensive taxi when they’ve been drinking.

When someone offers you a drink or asks why you’re not drinking, say, ‘you would hate to risk the lives of others when getting them home.’ Most people will completely agree and never challenge this, letting the issue go.

Unfortunately, this perfect excuse also means you can avoid any more profound questions about why you’re not drinking.

2. Alcohol Doesn’t Mix Well with My Meds

You may or may not be taking the medications you claim to take, and that’s ok. However, if you are taking a particular medicine, it may come with a warning against consuming alcohol when taking them.

For example, mixing alcohol with antidepressants and sleeping aids is dangerous as you can become intoxicated quicker and may act dangerously or speak out of character. [2]

Mixing medications with alcohol also have a hazardous impact on memory, causing blackouts. Even antibiotics, hay fever tablets and even opioids like cough medicine aren’t meant to be mixed with alcohol. [3]

Don’t feel you have to go into all this detail about your medication. You can simply say, ‘I don’t mix alcohol with your current medication.’

Most people will have the good manners not to pry. For example, it’s not in most people’s nature to ask personal questions about a person’s illnesses or medicines.

Plus, most people wouldn’t want to ruin their good time with some freak accident due to you drinking when you shouldn’t be.

3. I’ve Got a Big Day Tomorrow

If you’re not ready to spill the beans about your recovery journey yet, then this is another popular excuse. The great thing about this answer is that you can change it to suit the situation or ward off any eager beavers trying their best to get you to drink.

You can also say, “I want to keep a clear head, I’m working tomorrow,” or “no thanks, I don’t want a hangover tomorrow.’

Using these excuses to tell someone you don’t drink shows the world that you won’t allow your life to be ruled by alcohol, that you put yourself and your life in front of it.

People who would be significantly and negatively impacted by alcohol the next day, such as surgeons, lawyers or students during exams, would not want to drink and let alcohol interfere with their functions.

It takes on average one hour for one unit of alcohol to be processed and expelled from your body, and if you drink excessively, you could be still intoxicated the following day.

This answer also allows you to keep quiet about your recovery until you feel ready. [4]

4. I Don’t Drink

The last two ways to tell people that you don’t drink might involve a bit more questioning but are most honest if you feel able to speak some or all the truth.

You will need to be courageous with this one, mainly due to the follow-up questions, but hopefully, this answer will shut down further questions.

Stating ‘I don’t drink’ is an excellent response for anyone serious about sticking to their recovery. Hopefully, most people will accept your answer.

But if you do find yourself battling through the Spanish Inquisition, you can follow it up with some truths, whether partial or whole.

Some people prefer to answer any further questions with, ‘I don’t like myself when I drink,’ ‘I can’t stop at just one,’ or ‘things get a bit crazy for me when I drink, and you don’t want to be around for that.’

Of course, you could be at a wedding, works party, or a family BBQ, but you will likely be around people you know well enough to share some details.

Keeping things light-hearted is easier if you feel uncomfortable. Still, if you feel brave enough and comfortable enough to share the truth, you could go with the absolute, harsh reality in the following answer.

5. Tell the Truth, You’re in Recovery

It may take you some time to get to this point. Even after several years, you may not feel ready, to be honest about your sobriety. But when you are ready, this is a simple way to stop the line of questioning.

When offered an alcoholic drink, tell people, ‘I’m in recovery’, or ‘the truth is, I have a drinking problem and don’t drink anymore.’

How much information you divulge is up to you, but you’ll probably find that people support and understand your decision when you are brave enough, to tell the truth.

But, unfortunately, they’re usually too busy with their own lives to care why you don’t drink.

If you are comfortable telling the whole, unfiltered truth, then this is the best response. It stops any line of questioning in its tracks, usually out of discomfort or disinterest, as people accept your answer and move on.

Once you have admitted to having a problem with alcohol, there isn’t much left to stay. If you do face any questions, they usually come from a place of curiosity, not malice.

Final Thoughts

Hopefully, you will now have some answers prepared before your next social gathering, whether you feel comfortable telling the truth.

Challenging as it may be, you have it in you to get past any hurdle thrown at your recovery, including turning down alcohol at events.

Hopefully, if you feel more prepared and less stressed, you’ll feel better equipped to tell people why you don’t drink.


  1. https://bmcpublichealth.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12889-018-5995-3
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6761694/
  3. https://uhs.umich.edu/combine
  4. https://m.luton.gov.uk/Page/Show/Transport_and_streets/Road_safety/Driving/Advice/Pages/How%20long%20does%20alcohol%20take%20to%20leave%20my%20body_.aspx