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Alcohol and Mental Health

Excuses To Not Drink: How To Say “No” to Alcohol

July 4, 2023
10 min read
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Written by
Reframe Content Team
A team of researchers and psychologists who specialize in behavioral health and neuroscience. This group collaborates to produce insightful and evidence-based content.
July 4, 2023
10 min read
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Certified recovery coach specialized in helping everyone redefine their relationship with alcohol. His approach in coaching focuses on habit formation and addressing the stress in our lives.
July 4, 2023
10 min read
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Recognized by Fortune and Fast Company as a top innovator shaping the future of health and known for his pivotal role in helping individuals change their relationship with alcohol.
July 4, 2023
10 min read
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Reframe Content Team
July 4, 2023
10 min read

It's Friday night. The house is buzzing, friends and family gathered around. Laughter floats through the air, and conversations fill the room. Trays of hors d'oeuvres, bowls of chips, and an assortment of refreshments are in full swing, all revolving around the centerpiece: a bottle of cabernet. And then, someone pops the question: "Why aren't you drinking?"

First things first: you don’t actually “need” to explain why you’re not drinking. You’ve made a personal choice — and a great one, at that. However, we all know sometimes this is easier said than done. So how do you get your point across without dampening the spirit of the occasion? 

Why the Pressure?

Before we tackle the “how,” let's have a quick detour down the “why” lane. In our society, drinking is a social norm and alcohol has become synonymous with celebration, socialization, and camaraderie. Alcohol is seen as a catalyst for fun, helping you “loosen up” or “get in the mood.” So, if someone opts out, they may be seen as not wanting to join in the fun, leading others to pressure them to drink. But there are many reasons not to drink alcohol.

Moreover, alcohol is often considered a rite of passage into adulthood, a companion for social gatherings, and sometimes even as a coping mechanism. This normalization makes it seem odd when someone decides not to drink. People often mirror the actions of those around them in social scenarios to feel a sense of belonging — your classic “monkey see monkey do” situation. Diverging from the norm may make people uncomfortable, leading them to pressure the non-drinker. Besides, when someone doesn't drink, others might question their own drinking habits, which can be uncomfortable. 

However, drinking too much alcohol isn't all fun and games. In fact, excessive alcohol use has real, significant effects on your health and well-being. Still, many people aren't fully aware of the health risks associated with excessive alcohol consumption. They might believe that a “few drinks” won't cause harm and thus they encourage others to drink, not realizing the potential negative effects.

The Direct Approach

Often, the best policy is honesty. If you're comfortable, you can simply say, "I'm cutting back on my alcohol consumption for my health." This is straightforward and simple, and most people will respect your decision.

Remember, your decision to cut back or stop drinking is your business, and it's ultimately for your benefit. If people question your motives, reiterate that it's a personal choice for your health and well-being. 

The Lighter Side

However, not all scenarios call for seriousness — sometimes a lighter approach might do the trick. For instance, you could say, "I've taken up morning runs, and trust me, a hangover and a 6 a.m. run don't mix well!" or "I'm on a health kick, and alcohol just doesn't fit into the equation right now."

These responses not only communicate your intentions, but also show that you're proactive about your health. It takes the spotlight off alcohol and shifts it to your positive lifestyle changes.

Being a Non-Alcoholic Connoisseur

Then there's the route of becoming a connoisseur of non-alcoholic drinks. Next time someone offers you a drink, try something like, "I'm actually exploring non-alcoholic beverages these days. Have you tried the new line of botanical sodas?" This could even spark a conversation about the exciting world of non-alcoholic drinks, turning the tables completely!

Lines for All Occasions

Having a repertoire of ready-to-use responses can be a lifesaver in a variety of social situations. Whether it's a casual Friday hangout, a fancy dinner party, or a family gathering, these lines are geared towards maintaining a jovial, comfortable atmosphere while still affirming your choice not to drink.

  • At a casual meet-up with friends. "Guys, I'm trying this new thing where I replace alcohol with healthier alternatives. Did you know there's a whole world of non-alcoholic beers out there? They're surprisingly good!"
  • At a dinner party. "I appreciate the offer, but I'm actually exploring a new wine these days: H2O vintage. It's got a subtle, yet refreshing note, perfectly paired with every meal."
  • At a work event. "I've found that I'm more alert and productive without alcohol, so I'm trying to keep it to a minimum, especially on work nights."
  • At a family gathering. "I've decided to cut back on my drinking for a bit. Don't worry, though, my ability to laugh at Uncle John's jokes is still intact!"
  • When someone insists. "I know you mean well, but I'm really enjoying my alcohol-free journey. In fact, you should try it sometime. It's quite refreshing!"
  • When asked for details. "I'm taking a bit of a detox from alcohol for my health. Did you know that excessive drinking can affect our brain function? Not exactly my idea of a good time!"

Stick to Your Decision

Now that we've got the responses covered, let's look at some action steps that can help you stick to your decision:

  • Set clear goals. Define what “cutting back” means for you. It could be specific days when you don't drink, setting a limit on how many drinks you'll have, or abstaining completely. Write down “Why I don't drink alcohol,” and keep that note on your phone or in your wallet when you need a reminder and encouragement. 
  • Find alternative drinks. Explore the world of non-alcoholic beverages. Herbal teas, kombucha, sparkling water, and non-alcoholic beers are great substitutes!
  • Practice responses. It's always better to be prepared. Go through the responses and choose the ones that resonate with you. Practice saying them out loud.
  • Build a supportive network. Surround yourself with people who support your decision. They'll make the journey much easier.
  • Focus on the positives. Pay attention to the benefits of cutting back on alcohol like improved sleep, better health, and even saving some money. Let these positives reinforce your decision.

With a bit of practice, you’ll be able to navigate the social seas of not drinking with finesse. Remember, your health and well-being are always worth raising a toast to — even if it's with a glass of sparkling water.

Remember, the key here is to deliver your message with a sense of lightheartedness and positivity. You want to affirm your decision without coming across as defensive or confrontational. And above all, remind yourself that this decision is for your own well-being, and there's no need to justify it beyond your comfort zone.

Ready To Tell Others “No Thanks, I’m Not Drinking Tonight”? 

Although it isn’t a treatment for alcohol use disorder (AUD), the Reframe app can help you cut back on drinking gradually, with the science-backed knowledge to empower you 100% of the way. Our proven program has helped millions of people around the world drink less and live more. And we want to help you get there, too!

The Reframe app equips you with the knowledge and skills you need to not only survive drinking less, but to thrive while you navigate the journey. Our daily research-backed readings teach you the neuroscience of alcohol, and our in-app Toolkit provides the resources and activities you need to navigate each challenge.

You’ll meet millions of fellow Reframers in our 24/7 Forum chat and daily Zoom check-in meetings. Receive encouragement from people worldwide who know exactly what you’re going through! You’ll also have the opportunity to connect with our licensed Reframe coaches for more personalized guidance.

Plus, we’re always introducing new features to optimize your in-app experience. We recently launched our in-app chatbot, Melody, powered by the world’s most powerful AI technology. Melody is here to help as you adjust to a life with less (or no) alcohol. 

And that’s not all! Every month, we launch fun challenges, like Dry/Damp January, Mental Health May, and Outdoorsy June. You won’t want to miss out on the chance to participate alongside fellow Reframers (or solo if that’s more your thing!).

The Reframe app is free for 7 days, so you don’t have anything to lose by trying it. Are you ready to feel empowered and discover life beyond alcohol? Then download our app through the App Store or Google Play today!

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At Reframe, we do science, not stigma. We base our articles on the latest peer-reviewed research in psychology, neuroscience, and behavioral science. We follow the Reframe Content Creation Guidelines, to ensure that we share accurate and actionable information with our readers. This aids them in making informed decisions on their wellness journey.
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