close up shot of people toasting with champagne

5 Ways to Successfully Decline Alcohol This Holiday Season


Sober Recovery Expert Author

close up shot of people toasting with champagne

Holiday gatherings can be a huge challenge for recovering alcoholics. Oftentimes, there are friends and family who choose to imbibe as part of the celebration. These occasions test a person’s ability to reject alcohol without creating unnecessary attention at the same time.

To help ensure you stay strong this holiday season, here are five tactful ways to say no to alcohol and keep yourself from risk.

Holiday parties can be particularly challenging for recovering alcoholics. These 5 tips can help make it easier to stay strong in sobriety during this tempting season.

1. Be blunt, but polite.

An outright “no” may seem rude and abrupt without an explanation. While some would suggest that you lie—say you don’t like the taste of alcohol, that you have to catch an early flight the next day or that you’re on a rigorous eating plan—not telling the truth about your vow of abstinence represents a lack of commitment to your new way of life. When you are open and upfront about your recovery, people usually appreciate your level of honesty and dedication, and will likely refrain from offering you any alcohol.

After saying no, try briefly explaining that you were an uncontrolled drinker for many years but had now decided to give it up. When you are firm but polite, it shows others that you are comfortable and confident with where you’re at and that you don’t feel the need to camouflage your situation to gain anyone’s approval.

2. Keep your calm when you are put to the test.

Unfortunately, there will be people who don’t agree with your decision to live sober and will do whatever they can to get you to drink. No matter how annoying, hurtful or personal they get, don’t lose your cool. Instead of letting the situation escalate into an argument or a fight, just calmly restate the fact that you just don’t drink anymore—as many times as you need to. Eventually, they’ll either get bored about the subject or become embarrassed the moment others show signs of annoyance or discomfort as well.

3. If you are forced to accept a drink, discreetly dump it.

If a drink is forced into your hand anyway, or you are included in a round of drinks despite your refusal, find a way to get rid of it without causing drama. Of course, the easiest way is to simply get your own non-alcoholic drink at the bar. However, if you are handed the drink, go ahead and participate in the toast and simply abandon the untouched glass on a table. If you’d like to be more discreet, you can also take the drink with you to the bathroom where you can dump it and refill your glass with cold water.

4. Have a good time.

People who drink at get-togethers often want you to drink to ensure that you’re having as much fun as they are. To get them to relax, show that you’re having a good time and try to be fun in other ways. Whenever there’s an awkward moment, try introducing a topic that your companions will also enjoy talking about. If there’s music playing, go ahead and dash off to the dance floor and show your moves. The important thing is that you’re also having a good time, which will put the host and others at the party at ease.

5. Know what you’re going to say ahead of time.

Once you’ve decided to be honest about your recovery, think of a standard response before stepping foot into the party. Consider people’s possible come-backs and have answers ready for those, too. You can even ask a friend or relative to practice by role-playing with you. Aim to sound convincing, friendly and respectful. Some of the most effective ways to do this is by being short, straight to the point and maintaining eye contact. If you seem hesitant, vague, shifty-eyed or long-winded, it may make you seem persuadable. Keep practicing until you can deliver your answers calmly. Remember, if you’re adamant about your abstinence, nobody should be able to talk you out of it.

Holiday parties happen every year and you don’t have to necessarily skip out on attending just because you’ve stopped drinking (unless that is the best route for you in your stage of recovery). By mastering how to confidently and politely shut out alcohol without any friction, you can be assertive and strong in the way you address and stand by your sobriety, especially during this festive time of year.

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