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How to avoid feeling awkward at a party when you’re not drinking

There are lots of reasons why people don't drink at parties. These tips will help you avoid feeling awkward if you decide not to drink.


Written by SpunOut | View this authors Twitter page and posted in health


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If you’re staying away from alcohol at a party and you’re feeling awkward about it, here are some tips to help you feel more comfortable saying no to a drink.

Know that it’s okay if you don’t want to drink

Whether you’re just staying off the booze that night, or you don’t drink at all, it’s okay if you don’t want to drink. There’s no rule that says you have to drink when you go to a party, and chances are you won’t be the only one taking it easy that night. Be comfortable in your decision not to drink, and have confidence going in that you’re still going to enjoy yourself, and you don’t need alcohol for that.

Be prepared for questions or comments

It’s best not to get into the subject too much, but you might find people will ask you why you’re not drinking. Be prepared for this by knowing what you’ll say in response ahead of time. You can keep it simple without going into detail, and it’s best to avoid getting defensive about the topic. Some things you could say if someone asks include:

  • I just decided I’m not drinking tonight.
  • I’m not a big drinker and I don’t feel like drinking.
  • I don’t actually drink, it’s just not for me.
  • I have an early start in the morning so I’m avoiding it tonight.

Bring your favourite non-alcoholic drink

One way to avoid feeling awkward, especially if you don’t want to draw attention to the fact that you’re not drinking, is to always have a drink in your hand. This way, you can avoid questions about why you’re not drinking anything, and people are less likely to offer to get you something.

  • It’s perfectly fine if you just want to drink water.
  • Bring a big bottle of your favourite soft drink, and drink it in the same glass or cup that everyone else is using. You might want to find somewhere to keep it so others won’t use it to mix their drinks!
  • If it makes you feel a bit more comfortable, consider bringing some non-alcoholic beers with you. There are plenty available now, and most bars have at least one on offer.

Don’t feel pressured to drink

Sometimes people can try to encourage you to have drink at a party, even when you’ve already told them you don’t want to.

  • Don’t feel pressured into having a drink just because someone else wants you to. If anyone offers to get you a drink, just politely decline and say you’re fine.
  • If someone brings you a drink after you said no, or without asking, it’s okay to let them know that you’re not drinking tonight. If they insist on you taking it, you can accept it, but you don’t have to drink it. Give it to someone else or simply leave it on the table.
  • Be firm but polite when declining a drink. If you get too defensive, the other person may get offended, but if they persist after you’ve said no, stand your ground and have confidence in your decision.

Don’t spend all of your time on your phone

When you’re feeling uncomfortable in a social setting, it’s easy to gravitate towards looking through your phone just to have something to focus on. As awkward as you may feel, it’s best to try and avoid your phone altogether during a party and instead focus on what’s going on around you.

If you’re feeling the urge to take out your phone and withdraw from the party, try these tips instead:

  • Start up a conversation with someone and focus on that.

  • Find something you can do, even if it’s just getting something to eat or topping up your drink.

  • Practice a bit of mindfulness by paying attention to your breathing or noticing your feet on the floor or your back against the chair. This will bring you back into the moment and you can be more present with those around you.

Remember how good you’ll feel the next day

If you’re getting worked up about the fact you’re not drinking, remember that the next morning you’ll be feeling much better than many people who are drinking. It might be helpful to make a plan for the morning after the party to give you something to look forward to. You could even use this as a reason for not drinking if people ask you about it.

If you think you have a problem, confide in someone you trust

If the reason you don’t want to drink is that you feel you have a problem with alcohol, speak to a friend you trust and let them know why you want to avoid drinking. Ask them to support you in your decision by sticking with you on the night, helping you to avoid questions about why you’re not drinking, and maybe even staying sober with you for the party. Knowing someone else is there to support you will make it easier.

Find out more on AskAboutAlcohol.ie.

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Published October 13th, 2017
Last updated October 23rd, 2017
Tags alcohol party
Can this be improved? Contact editor@spunout.ie if you have any suggestions for this article.

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