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Alcohol abuse health centre

When you're the only one not drinking alcohol


WebMD Medical Reference
Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks

If you are not drinking alcohol, for whatever reason, it can be hard when those around you are buying rounds and supping their beer, wine and cocktails.

Remember, you're not alone. The responsible drinking organisation DrinkAware.co.uk says 15% of adults in Great Britain have never drunk alcohol.

Try these tactics for less worry and no alcohol.

Plan ahead

Most people go into drinking situations cold, which can lead to problems. A way round this is to picture yourself arriving at the party, getting a non-alcoholic beverage, eating appetisers and steering clear of the bar area. Focus on chatting and catching up with friends, not your desire to drink. Have the phone number of a supportive, sober friend to call if you feel tempted, and decide how long to stay before you even step in the door; you may want to leave before everyone gets merry.

"I hold a glass of soft drink and keep it refreshed, so no-one else has to offer to get me a refill," says one recovering alcoholic. "And if it's a 'party hearty' crowd, after a little while they won't even notice if I quietly leave."

Two tips from Alcoholics Anonymous that could usefully be applied in party situations are:

  • Eat plenty. You’ll be less likely to want a drink on a full stomach.
  • If you do get a craving for alcohol, this may be due to the body’s demand for liquid, which is often very strong. So drink plenty, provided it’s not alcohol. Fruit juices with glucose or tea and coffee with sugar can help satisfy your body’s craving for liquid.

Know how to say no

You could practise turning down a drink beforehand so you'll sound confident at the event. Look them in the eye, say it very firmly and try not to leave an opening for argument or discussion. Some people wonder if they should mention that they are an alcoholic. It’s better just to say 'No thanks, I'm laying off it tonight,' and if they press, simply say, 'I feel like getting healthier.'

The word "tonight" can be powerful when turning down a drink. Some people may pry if you say that you never drink. Maybe tonight you are the designated driver, have to get up early the next day, or are taking cough and cold medicine - keep them guessing.

Avoid triggers

Maybe you always downed a six-pack while watching football with friends, so it's challenging to get through a Cup Final party sober. Or you always drank when you smoked socially, so being offered a cigarette at a party might make you crave alcohol. Any activity that you've closely paired with alcohol in the past may trigger the desire to drink. Turning down a cigarette, an invitation to a Cup Final party or another problem activity can help you avoid high-risk situations.

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