Being Around Non-Alcoholics

by May 3, 2019SUD Resources0 comments

Being Around Non-Alcoholics

In AA, often times its recommended that in order to minimize drink offers members disclose to their friends “at a proper time and place” why alcohol “disagrees” with them. AA also suggests reassuring people not to act differently around them. However, in recovery groups, there’s often talk about “people, places, and things” associated with past use of alcohol and drugs. The idea is to avoid triggers like former using buddies, places like bars at which you drank, and items such as special glasses used for drinking or paraphernalia for drug use.

Since triggers are everywhere and social pressure from friends, coworkers, and relatives can make it hard to quit or cut back, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) offers guidelines to help people refuse drinks in its “Rethinking Drinking” materials. (Many could be helpful for drug refusal, too.) The NIAAA suggests first thinking about situations where you feel pressure to drink. Then, for each situation, choose some resistance strategies such as the following:

Avoid pressure when possible.

Sometimes, it’s best to avoid high-risk situations completely. If you feel guilty about not attending an event or turning down an invitation, tell yourself that this won’t necessarily be forever. After becoming more confident, you may be able to ease gradually into situations you now choose to avoid. In the meantime, you can stay connected with friends by proposing alternate activities that don’t involve use of alcohol (or drugs.)

Practice your “no.”

Many people are surprised at how hard it can be to say no the first few times. You can build confidence by scripting and practicing your lines. First imagine the situation and the person who’s offering the drink. Then write both what the person will say and how you’ll respond, whether it’s a broken record strategy or your own unique approach. Rehearse it out loud to get comfortable with your phrasing and delivery. Consider asking a supportive person to role-play with you, someone who would offer realistic pressure to drink and honest feedback about your responses. Whether you practice through made-up or real-world experiences, you’ll learn as your skills grow over time. Ask others to refrain from pressuring you or drinking in your presence. Have non-alcoholic drinks always in hand.

It’s great when hosts are thoughtful about providing nonalcoholic alternatives such as flavored water or iced tea for nondrinkers. But often don’t. So bring your own, just in case there’s nothing special for non-drinkers at social gatherings where alcohol is served. Practice coping skills for situations you can’t avoid.

When going to an event at which you know alcohol will be served, it’s important to have resistance strategies lined up in advance.If expecting drink offers, be ready with a convincing “no thanks.” Be clear and firm, yet friendly and respectful. Avoid long explanations, hesitation, and vague excuses since they tend to prolong the discussion and provide more of an opportunity to give in. Look directly at the person and make eye contact.

For those who persist, plan a series of more assertive responses such as, “No thank you;” “No, thanks, I don’t want to”; “I’m cutting back/not drinking now to get healthier – I’d appreciate your helping me out.”
Use the “broken record” strategy – that is, each time the person makes a statement, simply repeat the same short, clear response – for instance, “No thanks, I don’t want one.” If words fail, walk away.

Handle High-risk Situations

Here’s how some handle high-risk situations, such as social pressure, which one of the most common ways that get people back to drinking. Just say “No.” By far, the most common response when pushed by someone to drink was a simple, polite and/or assertive, “No thanks”. Or Firmly say, “no thank you” and realize the pressure is about them and not a shortcoming on your part.

Some say, “I don’t drink.” or “I no longer drink.” or politely, “Thanks, I don’t drink,” Explain that you have or had a drinking problem. Blame it on a health problem. Leave the situation. Ask the person to stop pushing.


If you find yourself struggling lately being around alcoholics, Contact us today or check out our recovery program to find out more on how we can help!

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