By Jennifer McDougall:
“Why aren’t you drinking?” has become a go-to question for nosy people with no tact. Alcohol is the only drug you seem to need a reason for not using. People are usually trying to be polite by asking. Still, it’s often seen as an invitation to tell them something they may have no business knowing much about, at least not if you’re uncomfortable opening up about it. So here are some ways to respond when someone asks why you’re not drinking alcohol.
“I’m doing a 30-day challenge right now.”
There are many reasons why someone might want or need an extended break from alcohol, but one thing is always true: taking time off from alcohol can help you build up willpower and try something new outside of your comfort zone. Many people who do 30-day challenges from alcohol decide they never want to return to alcohol again because of the many benefits sobriety offers. This is true for many people I know who have decided to get sober.
“I’m just taking a break right now.”
Sometimes, mentioning to your friend or family member that you’re taking a break from alcohol right now can take the pressure off you once you arrive at the event or gathering. In addition, letting tiny them know ahead of time will minimize the surprise of your unwillingness to participate in drinking games or activities involving alcohol.
“That’s a good question. I guess I want to try something new.”
It’s also true that you’re not obligated to answer any questions about why you choose not to drink alcohol when someone asks them. However, there are some situations where sharing the reasoning behind your choice might help the other person understand where you’re coming from and why your decision was made. There are no hard-and-fast rules for when or how exactly this should happen. The bottom line is that if someone asks “why?” try giving them an answer that feels comfortable for both parties involved: a son who may be curious about another person’s life choices. You may find that your not drinking will help positively influence them; so positive that they may even consider not drinking.
“I’m not drinking right now, but thanks for asking.”
It’s short and straightforward. You can use this answer if someone asks what the occasion is when they see that you’re not drinking—a great way to subtly hint at your reasons without going into detail.
We live in a world where people often feel pressured to explain themselves when they do something different than their peers (and because sometimes people are downright rude); I recommend using these phrases sparingly until you find yourself in a safe place with close friends who won’t judge or pressure you if they ask. Eventually, you won’t feel uncomfortable when people ask why you’re not drinking alcohol.
“I recently learned that many people who struggle with alcohol or other drugs also struggle with untreated trauma, and that has become a focus for me lately.”
This is an excellent opportunity to dive deeper into why you are not drinking alcohol. However, you could also say, “It’s something I’m working on, and it’s made me realize that the things I thought were just part of my personality might be symptoms of PTSD.”
You could mention being in therapy and working on your underlying conditions causing drug or alcohol abuse in the past. This is a great conversation to have with someone close to you, someone you trust, someone with who you feel comfortable opening up.
You may also need to get into the deeper reasons why with someone who pushes your boundaries, who won’t take no for an answer, and who you feel needs a better understanding of why you are choosing to be sober.
“I’m not drinking tonight.”
The most straightforward response is to say, “I’m not drinking tonight,” and leave it at that. This answer is excellent for anyone curious about your decision to abstain from alcohol for the day or the rest of your life. You can then walk away knowing you’ve done your job putting your foot down when offered or questioning your reasons for not drinking alcohol.
“I’ve been feeling better since I’ve cut alcohol out of my life.”
If you’re feeling confident and inspired, you can explain that not drinking has been helping you feel better about yourself. This is a great way to show the person who asked why you’re not drinking how much their question moved you.
It demonstrates that even though it’s an uncomfortable question for many people, it doesn’t have to be painful for everyone. There is no need for anyone to feel ashamed of their decisions to better themselves.
“My doctor told me I needed to cut back for a while.”
When you mention it’s something your doctor has advised you to stay away from, you could take the opportunity to review the many adverse effects alcohol has on our health and wellbeing. This is helpful for your friends and family to be aware of as alcohol is a harmful toxic that affects many aspects of our lives.
“I’m allergic to alcohol.”
This is my favorite and the one I always use.
This statement is straightforward and can be used to explain that you have an allergy, which is a word everyone knows. You might want to add that alcohol makes you feel sick, or you don’t like how it makes you feel.
“I’m taking antibiotics and can’t drink while on medication.”
Mixing alcohol and medication is a dangerous act. Mentioning that you aren’t drinking because of a medication you’re taking should help eliminate further questions. They may even want to share their adverse experience when mixing alcohol with medicine and how they support your choice because they understand it can be dangerous.
“I’ve got a special event and want to save my calories for food.”
Even if you’re not concerned with calories, saying this makes sense because everyone knows that food is necessary for energy, brain function, mood enhancement, health benefits, and weight management. They may not realize that alcohol has a lot of calories and that our bodies metabolize alcohol and food differently. This is another excellent opportunity to educate them on yet another reason cutting alcohol out of any diet is helpful, including weight management. Many people note that they quit drinking for the sole reason of cutting calories and losing weight.
“Alcohol makes me sleepy, and I want to stay awake for the rest of the evening.”
Alcohol is a depressant, which means it has a slowing effect on your body. After drinking alcohol, you may feel tired or sleepy for several hours. This is because your body takes one hour to process a single alcoholic beverage. Since many people who drink alcohol consume many within just one hour, the toxicity builds up in your bloodstream quicker, making it more challenging to stay alert.
“I’m sticking with water so I can drive my friends home when they need me to.”
Set the example for not drinking and driving. Too many people in our society consume several cocktails and then get behind the wheel. This scenario is all too common and extremely dangerous. Be the bigger person in your friend group or your family by stating the simple fact that you have to drive later, and to do so; you must stay sober.
“Alcohol gives me a headache, so I avoid it now.”
- Drinking alcohol is a diuretic, making you urinate more frequently.
- The more alcohol you drink, the more water you lose from your body.
- This can leave you dehydrated for several hours after drinking alcohol (possibly even longer).
- Dehydration can cause headaches and muscle pain.
“The hangover isn’t worth it.”
One of the reasons many people quit drinking is because of the hangovers alone. It’s just not worth it. Hangovers can range from minor to severe, and the symptoms can feel unbearable. Many people experience extreme anxiety and depression during a hangover that lasts several days. In addition, the heightened sense of fear and regret for intoxicated behavior leaves many people uncertain, causing a lack of productivity, self-confidence, and trust in themselves.
There are many ways to explain yourself without going too deep into why you choose your health over consuming a toxic chemical.
Try not to get defensive or aggressive about your explanation if you choose to give one. It’s okay to feel hurt or upset when people ask you this question repeatedly, but don’t let those feelings show through in your response. It’s not about them— it is about you and how you want to live your life. If someone is rude or insensitive in their approach, ignore them or change the subject if possible.
If you are struggling to quit drinking and stay sober, help is available.
Also read: What to Expect on Your Healing Journey in Addiction Recovery