How to feel confident saying no to drinking

If you are not drinking and are anxious about bringing it up at social events, this advice can help

Written by spunout


Deciding when to start drinking, or to stop drinking can be a big decision for some people. For others, they may always know that they do not want to drink alcohol. If you decided not to drink, you may feel pressure from those around you to do so, as drinking is a large part of how some people socialise in Ireland. Regardless of your reasons for not drinking, you deserve to feel confident and supported in your decision.

By not drinking you are looking after both your physical and mental health, you can stay more in control of the situations you are in, you can drive and you won’t have a hangover the next day to name just a few of the benefits of not drinking.

How to say no to drinking

Assure people you can have fun without drink

If someone is pressuring you into having an alcoholic drink they might be worried that you might be left out or are not able to have as much fun as those who are drinking. Let them know that you are having fun and that you are happier not drinking.

Some people may want you to drink because it makes them feel better about their own drinking if those around them are also participating in it. Try to keep this in mind if you are bothered by the pressure someone might be putting on you to have a drink.

Drive to events which have alcohol

If you drive, driving to an event where there is alcohol could be good motivation not to drink. Even one drink can impair driving and most people know this. Hopefully they will not pressure you to have a drink. You could offer your friends a lift home and they might be grateful for your decision not to drink.

Be honest about why you don’t drink

There are loads of reasons not to drink. If people are questioning you on your decision, you can choose to let them know your reasons why, but do not feel like you have to justify your decision. It might be for your health or fitness, because you want to avoid the hangover, alcohol might negatively affect your mental health. You may find it difficult to talk about your reasons with everyone, especially if you don’t drink for a personal reason so it might help to have a vaguer reason for some situations.

If you choose to open up about your reasons not to drink it might start a conversation with someone about mental health, addiction or it might get them thinking about their own drinking.

Have a look at our article about how to talk to people about your mental health for more on this.

Don’t be afraid to leave early

You might have had a perfectly good time on a night out but now it’s getting late, you’re tired without the influence of alcohol and everyone is quite drunk. It’s perfectly ok to leave early. Don’t pressure yourself into staying late just because everyone else it.

Organise other ways to see your friends

It might seem that the only time you see your friends is when there is alcohol involved. This might make it harder to cut down on drinking or even stop you from doing so. Try to organise to see your friends to do something else that doesn’t involve drinking. It doesn’t have to be anything big, it might just be going for a walk, for lunch or to the cinema. Activities such as board games, puzzles and art can be good ways to spend time with friends that does not involve alcohol.

Organise to do stuff in the mornings

Waking up early the next morning after drinking can be tough. If you have given up alcohol or just never drank reward yourself by doing something nice in the morning. If you like exercise you could go for a cycle or hike, treat yourself to a nice breakfast or go shopping before everywhere gets too crowded in the afternoon.

Underage drinking

In Ireland the legal age to purchase alcohol is 18. You must be over 18 to drink alcohol unless it is in a home and you have parental consent.

It is illegal to pretend to be 18 to buy alcohol. This could lead to a district court appearance and a fine.

If you or your friends start drinking before you are 18 you are breaking the law unless you are in a home with parental consent. If you are caught drinking alcohol by the Gardaí they can confiscate your drink. You may be summoned to the district court where you may get a fine.

Have a look at this article for more on the law about alcohol.

Saying no to underage drinking

If your friends make the decision to drink before they are 18 remember that you don’t have to. As well as being against the law, starting to drink alcohol at a young age can affect your development.

Your brain continues to develop into your early twenties. Heavy alcohol consumption while your brain is still developing can cause permanent changes, particularly to:

  • the hippocampus – responsible for memory and learning
  • the prefrontal lobe – important for planning, judgement, decision making, impulse control and language

If you feel that you are being peer pressured into drinking try talking to your friends and explaining that you would rather wait to start drinking alcohol. Get advice or support from a family member, a friend outside of the group or talk to someone in school or college about it.

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