How to Say “I’m Not Drinking” and the Perspective Shift You Need to Live Your Sober Life Proudly
By Karolina Rzadkowolska
I remember how long I was “sober curious” before I quit drinking for good. I knew that drinking made me feel low, lethargic and disappointed in myself the next day, and while I didn’t remove it from my life completely, I did go to a few social events and not drink. But then there were times where there was no question about whether or not I would drink, what would people think if I didn’t?! Drinking was “normal” and “expected” and I couldn’t fathom back then how to do right by me and not drink in a world that told me to at every occasion.
A lot of people venturing into sobriety find it gets trickiest with social events and explaining to friends and family they are no longer drinking. At home the days are adding up along with the benefits: glorious sleep, healthier lifestyle and an outlook that says, if I can do this, I can do anything!
Then why is it so hard to tell people about our secret weapon that makes us happier, more radiant, and feel more alive without feeling embarrassed?
Because alcohol is a taboo topic and we are conditioned to think that drinking is “normal.” Leaving us to feel like an outcast and a walking stigma that we couldn’t hack it and ascribe to this “normal.” We are so scared of having to share every deep dark vulnerability with a stranger because of the contents of our glass.
But this is crazy and shouldn’t be the way it is. I want to change this reality and empower others to feel confident about their transformative lifestyle.
Learn these seven ways to say you are not drinking, from innocent offers to more serious interrogations you might get. Then shift your perspective and realize that not drinking is your superpower and infuse your newfound confidence to change the way society talks about not drinking.
I don’t drink
Short, simple, easy, this works particularly well for people who you haven’t met before. This answer doesn’t let someone try and cajole you into it. It’s firm and direct and establishes your identity as someone who doesn’t drink ethanol. End of story.
Thanks, I’m great
It’s so nice to thank someone with what they’re offering but let them know you are great without it. This line works so well because it’s really hard to argue with someone who is great. Say it with a flash of your smile.
Yes, I’d love a club soda with lime
This one is easy. Say yes! When someone asks if you’d like a drink, respond, “Yes! I’d love a club soda with lime.” Saying no makes you feel lacking and like you are missing out. Reframe your answer to feel positive and part of the fun. It helps you feel positive, confident and included. Someone who doesn’t drink alcohol still drinks beverages, ya know?
Yeah, I brought this kombucha I’ve been wanting to try
In certain places, you can’t rely on what soft drinks the host or event will have. Why not deflect the situation and bring a mocktail or other alternative drink for yourself? Being prepared with my own fancy drink made me feel so much more confident in my alcohol-free lifestyle and like I wasn’t missing out on anything.
The above four lines work really well with acquaintances and random people at social events. But your closer friends and family might want to know more. When people question WHY you are not drinking, try these explanations:
I’m so much happier without it
This is the number one reason why I don’t drink. My happiness as a nondrinker has skyrocketed. I’m so happy to be alive to the present moment. I’m so happy to have my awe and appreciation back for the beautiful world around me. I’m so happy to be limitless and not limited by a fermented beverage that kept me small. I’m so happy to be free of hangovers, shame, and disappointing myself. I’m so happy to live a truly healthy life (not a detox just to retox rollercoaster). And most of all, I’m so happy to finally be comfortable in my own skin, and not look outside of myself for something else to bring me comfort.
I hate how it makes me feels
While I thought I liked drinking, I hated how I felt afterwards. I hated feeling low, tired, and in a fog after weekend drinking. I hated feeling ashamed that I couldn't stick to my goals, both with moderating and other things I wanted to attain. I hated how I tried so hard to be healthy and but was constantly stalling my health and fitness goals. I hated feeling sick. I hated not being able to trust myself.
I hated feeling less than my best self. Why isn’t that reason enough? Let’s stop pretending as a society that alcohol doesn't create hangovers, depression, mental fog, and malaise and wonder why anyone would dare quit unless there was something seriously wrong with the person, and not the habit.
I haven’t drank in a while and I feel better than I have in years
Life is so short and you owe it to yourself to live it bravely and let your best self come through. I had been a drinker for years! I’ve experienced that life . . . been there done that. I know exactly how it felt. I know exactly how limited I was. I’m done with that life because for the first time in years I feel limitless. Without a toxic substance holding me down, I want to see what I’m capable of. Turns out, a lot more than I ever believed.
Perspective shifts to keep in mind:
You don’t owe anyone your story
Research and motivational speaker Brené Brown tells us that we can access our most courageous selves when we are vulnerable. But she also goes on to say that not everyone deserves to hold space for your vulnerability, especially not strangers at a random networking event. Meaning, you don’t owe anyone your story. You don’t have to drudge up the pain or the struggle or anything that you don’t feel comfortable disclosing. Having a complicated relationship with booze is the expected outcome of a society that conditions us to drink a highly addictive drug. You aren’t “different” or a “problem.” By having the insight and courage to quit drinking, you are one of the most exceptional.
This isn’t high school anymore
Could you imagine feeling embarrassed that you didn’t smoke cigarettes and that something was wrong with you for not smoking? That’s laughable, isn’t it. And yet for some crazy reason, the whole world has bought into the idea that drinking somehow denotes your social status and makes you one of the hip, cool, and glamorous. But I want you to analyze the situation. Take a look at the drinkers around you. Are they hip and cool to be hungover tomorrow morning? Are they glamorous by adding years to their skin by drinking? Take a look at your beer guzzling uncle. Is his beer belly really enviable? Is drinking just to fit in really showing the world how confident and independent you are?
Take a stand and be a confident sober rebel instead.
People who have an issue with it have an issue with their own drinking
Someone who is proud of and feels fulfilled about their own drinking habits won’t bat an eye at the fact that you aren’t drinking. They won’t try to cajole you. They won’t defend their drinking. They certainly won’t make fun of you for not drinking. These are a huge red flag. If you’re dealing with someone like this, just know that anything they’re saying has nothing to do with you. They have their own deep insecurities about drinking and don’t want anyone to change the status quo. By not drinking and being confident about it, you’re holding up a mirror to their own doubts and worries. Also, some people might be scared that they will lose you. If you’re changing for the better, will you leave them behind?
Believe in the sober movement
You need to shift your perspective and become a believer in the sober movement. You have to believe that alcohol-free life is the hope and happiness that so many people need and are waiting for. When you find the best kept secret of our time, that has given you back your sleep, your calm, your mojo, your joy, and your LIFE back, you become a disciple for this way of living and wear it proudly. Sure, every once in a while I will meet someone “important” and feel nervous about my response to their inevitable question. But I remind myself that this isn’t embarrassing and goes way beyond my personal drinking story.
It’s not embarrassing to live your best life. It’s not embarrassing to go to bed early and feel like a million bucks the next day. It's not embarrassing to be a present parent and excellent role model for your children. It’s not embarrassing to take your newfound agency and build the life of your dreams. Having a complicated relationship with booze isn’t embarrassing either—like I said, it’s the expected outcome of our society. Leaving it behind is the badass move.
You are the inspiration
The next time you are feeling embarrassed by having to say you don’t drink, step outside of your shoes for a minute and consider how many people out there also have a complicated relationship with booze and are silently suffering as you were. Consider that maybe your confidence at not drinking and eloquence sharing why your prefer the sober lifestyle might be just the very thing they needed to see and hear. You are not an embarrassment. You are an inspiration.