Common sense dictates that you shouldn’t ask someone why they aren’t drinking. On one hand, it isn’t any of your business. On the other, there is a whole slew of reasons that would make for awkward conversation. Do you really want to know that someone takes medications that make for a scary outcome if mixed with alcohol? Or that someone is in recovery? What about the woman in her first trimester of pregnancy who hasn’t made an announcement yet? While not asking is conventional wisdom, it isn’t how things always go.
For many newly sober individuals, this is one of the most difficult aspects of recovery. Since many people use alcohol as a social lubricant, the person who opts out prompts questions. Rather than creating an elaborate excuse or revealing your personal history, here are some go-to responses for the inquiring minds in your life.
Nothing but the truth
Sometimes honesty really is the best policy. If you’re in a position where you don’t mind the other person knowing your past, saying the straight-up truth can be refreshing. Often, a direct response catches people off guard and leaves them speechless.
This is another option that leaves most people satisfied with the answer without asking for more information. Besides, people who are drinking love a sober cabby since it makes their drinking habits possible.
Humor is a tricky thing. Employed in the right setting, it can bring a lighthearted vibe to an otherwise heavy situation. On the other hand, it can also cause hurt feelings, anger, and even violence. Need some good one-liners? Warning: These should be used with the utmost care so that you don’t come across as condescending or rude. It’s usually best to transition into a casual getting-to-know-you topic afterward.
- “I’ve stopped outsourcing my happiness.”
- “My liver’s warranty expired X months ago.” (however long you’ve been sober)
- “I can’t. FOX News brainwashed me with public service announcements when I was a kid.”
- “I can’t. My doc said two drinks a day is good, which means I’m covered until the year 2249.”
- “I really shouldn’t drink. This bar doesn’t allow nudity.”
“No thanks, I don’t like the person I become when I drink.”
For most recovering alcoholics, this is a sobering truth. While it hints at the underlying reason to avoid drinking, it often feels safer than coming out and announcing an addiction. It also earns respect from most drinkers and leaves them without any follow-up questions.
“I’m more skilled at drinking than I am at being drunk.”
This has the dual ability to create a small chuckle while also being incredibly true for most former drinkers. Alcoholics are typically quite adept at putting back drink after drink well into the night; it’s the aftermath, including saying and doing things they would later regret, that remains a struggle.
“I’m trying to take care of myself better these days.”
Again, another truth couched in a solid excuse. If people demand more of an explanation, it’s easy to give: bloated stomach, unwavering nausea, sunken in cheeks, glossy eyes. When someone hears the reasons, it may even be enough justification for them to reconsider their own drinking habits.
While all of these responses are ways to handle the oft-asked question about sobriety, there are also subtle “tricks” you can employ that practically ensure you aren’t asked anything in the first place. Always keep a drink of something in your hand, preferably in the same sort of container as other people are drinking from. People are less apt to offer you a drink if you already are drinking something. If you have a friend willing to help, order a drink, then keep passing it to him when he finishes his drink. If done in a subtle fashion, people will think you’re slamming them back rather than staying sober.
So long as you sound confident in your response, people are unlikely to push the issue. Practice the responses that feel the most natural for you and go with them next time you’re out.