people socialising with non-alcoholic drinks

Feeling social pressure to drink?

Lots of people ask me how to cope with the pressure they sometimes face when they’re going out socially. They say things like:

I’m now sober and I'm starting to go out with friends. If an evening out starts out or ends up somewhere that serves alcohol, I'm often offered a drink. I say “no thanks” but they keep on... “one won't hurt”, etc.

What do I say to stop them keep going on about it?

And, my answer is usually this:

What needs to happen is for you to plan what you're going to say to people in advance. Going prepared is crucial. When you’ve chosen some phrases and responses that will work for you and the context you’re going into, you rehearse them. You imagine the situation unfolding around you with the kind of challenges described above and you rehearse repeating yourself confidently.

The kinds of things you can say and rehearse will depend on you and the context you're in. People come up with all sorts of things:

  • I've got an important meeting tomorrow and I need to have a clear head
  • I've got to give someone a lift later
  • I'm on a health kick and cutting down on sugar - do you know how much sugar just one alcoholic drink contains?
  • My personal trainer has me on a three-month challenge to lose ... kg and no alcohol's allowed
  • I'm on anti-biotics and not allowed to drink...
There are lots of options - you can come up with something that is appropriate for you. The important part is practising in advance so you can be super-confident when you get repeated challenges.

Eventually you get confident enough to tell people you stopped drinking for a while and you felt so much better for it that you decided to stick with it.

I just tell people I don't drink and they accept it but this does depend on the people around you and how confident you are with it all. I can’t think of a single person who has asked me why or questioned it.

I can remember when I first stopped drinking that I felt paranoid about it. I worried about what people would think. I didn’t want them to think I had a problem and I imagined all sorts of challenges, questions and pressure that didn’t ever materialise. Now that I’m totally confident in my non-drinking status, I feel no pressure, no shame, no self-consciousness and am happy to tell people I don’t drink if it ever comes up.

It is not what defines me. In my mind, it’s the same as saying that I choose to avoid sugar or avoid processed products with artificial ingredients. It’s about making healthy choices for me, my body and my life. If anyone’s going to argue with that, then perhaps they’re not someone who has my best interests at heart and I don’t need to give them any energy or thought…

Let me know if you’ve had any experiences with social pressure and challenges and how you dealt with it. It would be great to hear your experiences, tips and ideas.

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