Over 85% of the U.S. population drinks. For the less than 15% of us who don’t, refusing alcohol at social events, bars, and with friends, that can feel like ostracization. This is especially true for individuals who used to drink, especially a lot, and are finding new ways to spend time with friends, without alcohol. If you’re recovering from an alcohol use disorder, switching to sobriety can be difficult.
While it’s always important to be honest with your friends and family, there are plenty of situations in which you might not want to. For example, if you’re at a work event, if you’re not up for dealing with the conversations, if you’re not ready to tell people yet, or if you’re still in the process of deciding how you can have fun with your friends without alcohol. Eventually, the answer is not likely to be pretending to drink, but to become assertive in your sobriety. Until that time, these 7 sneaky ways to avoid drinking in social situations will help you out.
1) Bring Your Own
Bringing your own booze is a great tactic as long as you aren’t going to a bar or a restaurant. Here, you can choose to bring alcohol free beer (just don’t let people get too good of a look at it), a craft “root beer” which often looks similar to real beer, or a variety of canned beverages that look alcoholic. It’s also relatively easy to bring the ingredients for mixed drinks, leave them on a table so the alcohol is used by other people present, and make your own with no alcohol in. Chances are, you don’t share drinks anyway, so no one will notice.
If you habitually drank one thing previously, this can be harder. However, you can make a big deal about how you’re really into a new thing, and actually talk about it.
2) Volunteer to Be the Designated Driver
Volunteering to be the designated driver gets you out of drinking. You can add excuses to it, like, “I have to be up early tomorrow anyway”, “I went on a bender on Friday, still out from that”, if you really feel that it’s necessary. It’s always a good idea to keep this simple.
Importantly, just because you’re driving doesn’t mean people won’t pressure you to drink. It’s still 4 hours till you’re driving, “Come on, have a shot”. However, having a legal reason to skip drinking can help a great deal. E.g., you can go, “Nah, I was pulled over one time after having a shot and I still got a DUI!!”
Additionally, many friend groups will attempt to rotate who gets to be the designated driver. You can volunteer a few times in a row, after which it might start to be weird.
Be Brave. Get Help.
3) Plan Alcohol-Free Events
The easiest way to have alcohol-free social events is to simply create your own. Inviting people to rock climbing, dance classes, or any other event that doesn’t support alcohol. A good social outing might be hiking, go-karting, a museum, or any of a range of activities that don’t normally include alcohol. These can also be a lot of fun and in ways you wouldn’t get by getting together at home and trying alcohol.
You can also try more obvious alcohol-free events, like inviting people to an alcohol-free booze tasting party. People will show up with actual alcohol (most likely) but you can get away with, “that’s not what I’m doing now”.
This tactic also works if you’re planning work events. You can suggest alcohol-free options as an alternative to standing around in a room drinking and talking. Most people like doing things so chances are, you will get support. There are plenty of ways to have fun without alcohol, and the more you do with friends without alcohol, the easier coming out as “alcohol free” will be.
4) Drink Clear Beverages
Switching to clear beverages like champagne, sparkling white wine, vodka, etc., makes it a lot easier to fake what you’re drinking. For example, it’s difficult to tell a vodka martini from a water, it’s difficult to tell champagne from ginger ale, and so on. Of course, people will notice if they try your alcohol, but why would you let them try your alcohol.
- Exclusively drink mixed drinks or clear drinks
- Order your drinks in fancy glasses.
- Don’t be afraid to accept a real beverage and then run to the bathroom to swap it out for water
- Hard seltzers are difficult to tell from real seltzers in appearance
If you pick a drink that looks like an easy to acquire drink or which is easy to leave the alcohol out of, it’s easy to pretend to drink alcohol.
5) Tell a White Lie
White lies are a great way to get out of drinking without disclosing that you don’t. These can range from the short-term to the long-term.
- I was just in the hospital, I’m allergic to alcohol now
- I’m taking antibiotics, I can’t drink
- Trying to lose weight for X event, I’ll pass
- I have such a hangover from last night, alcohol might make me puke right now
- My mom asked me to pick something up on the way home for them so I can’t drink
- I have to be up at like 6 AM for X event
It’s important to note that if you decide to lie about why you’re not drinking, you have to remember what that is. People might ask about it, they might remember it, and you likely don’t want to use the same short-term excuse twice in a row. Of course, the more you interact with the same group, the less likely it is you want to be lying anyway. But, these lies can buy you some time, without really causing any harm.
6) Always Serve the Drinks/ Shots
If you’re doing the serving, it’s a lot easier to make yourself a special version without alcohol. This is especially easy if you’re using beer (just pour yourself an alcohol-free beer), clear shots (just use water), champagne (use ginger ale), or seltzer. It can be much harder if you’re serving cans of beer, whiskey, or something similar that is hard to fake.
This tactic also works if you’re at a bar. Just order the shots (this might get expensive) and order yourself something different.
7) Always Keep a Drink in Your Hand
No one will pressure you to drink if you’re already holding a drink. You don’t have to actually drink it. Although, if you want to keep comments down, you can swap a beer out for water (make sure it’s a can or a colored bottle) and drink that. If you’re holding a drink, it’s a lot easier to go, “no, I already have something”, if you actually do.
This kind of tactic is very effective at events where you walk around, where people move from room to room, etc. It’s not very effective if you’re sitting around a table with a small group, because it will quickly become obvious that you aren’t actually drinking anything.
Eventually, it’s almost always a good idea to disclose that you no longer drink. The more often you see a group, the more important it is to do so. If you’re only seeing people once, these tactics work long-term. But, eventually, honestly, self-assurance in your sobriety, and building good habits to say no when offered alcohol will help you on your way to recovery. Hopefully these 7 ways to avoid drinking at social events will help you in the meantime.