I thought that one of the benefits of being sober during quarantine would be a brief respite from the pressure that our society imposes on us to drink. Everyone knows that you can’t sit down at a restaurant or buckle your seatbelt on a plane without someone offering you a drink. But I figured that since in-person socializing is all but gone, the pressure to drink should disappear as well, right?  


Last week, the alcohol delivery app, Drizly saw a 300% spike in sales. According to the scheduling platform, Doodle, there’s been a 296% increase in the booking of virtual happy hours and drinking events last month. Also, have you noticed how many Tweets, memes, and Tik Tok’s about people day-drinking during this lockdown?

Just two days ago, a newly sober woman asked me, “What am I supposed to do when someone offers me a drink?” 

Even in quarantine, we need to be able to turn down a drink, but here’s the thing: sometimes, just saying “no thanks” isn’t enough for people. Here are some tried and true methods I shared with that woman tried and true:

1. Head ’em off at the pass:

A decoy drink is a classic move to avoid having to decline a drink. As soon as people see that you already have a drink, it lessens your chances of being offered one. Arrive at your event early and order your cranberry and soda (or whatever) and ask the waiter to keep refilling it throughout the night. If the event is virtual, just pour yourself a mocktail before you log in.

2. Hand the wine glass to the server with confidence 

I was about nine months sober, sitting nervously in a small dinner party when I saw the waiter at the other end of the table starting to pour wine. I didn’t know what to do, but then a woman sitting across from me regally handed her wine glass to the waiter when he approached and ordered sparkling water with lime. I followed her lead when the waiter got to me. 

3. “Believe me, you don’t want me drinking!”

Sometimes a joke can help turn an awkward issue into a light, funny moment. I’ve used this a couple of times, but usually with friends or close acquaintances, who have a sense of humor. Doing so takes the pressure off of you and puts the table at ease as well. 

4. Actually, I can’t drink – I’m allergic to alcohol.

This one never fails. Also, I can say it with certainty because it’s true — I do have a physical allergy to alcohol. When I drink, I experience face-flushing, vomiting, headaches, irrational thoughts/actions, and memory loss.  Bonus! People in the hospitality industry take allergies seriously, so waiters and managers might even take extra precautions to ensure that your meal is also alcohol-free.

5. “I’ll have a Diet Coke.”

 Ask any bartender, and they’ll tell you, ordering a Diet Coke is totally code for “I’m sober.” Order yours in a clear voice when everyone else is ordering their cocktails, and you’ll find that most people will take the hint.

6. None, for me, thank you. I don’t drink.

Simple, elegant, and to the point. This is my standard go-to when turning down a drink. It doesn’t beg any questions, and when offered with a confident expression, it needn’t invite any more discussion.

7. No thanks, I’m sober.

Sometimes I just need to let my sober flag fly a little. “No, I’m not abstaining because I’m the designated driver, pregnant, or on antibiotics. I’m not drinking because I’m sober, and I’m figgin’ proud of it – so there!”

8. I’m not drinking tonight.

While this isn’t the entire truth, under certain circumstances, it’s a perfectly acceptable version of it. When a drunk stranger is pressing me to do a shot with them (you know the type). I’ll say something like, “I’m not drinking tonight, but don’t let that stop you from turning up” – that usually does the trick.

9. I want to keep a clear head.

Another variation on this one is, “No, thanks, I’ve got an early day tomorrow.” Like with suggestion number nine, It’s a bit risky, as the next time I see this person, they might want to drink with me. 

10. Turn to science

Let’s say you’ve said no, and someone is still pressuring you. Bring in good ole science to shut it down. Something like, “Do you know that the alcohol in that drink you’re holding is the same substance used in disinfectants and industrial cleaning solutions?” outta do it.

This one may come off as provocative, it lets people know exactly where you stand with alcohol. It can also be a conversation starter, which isn’t really a bad thing, just make sure you’re prepared to answer. 

11. Treat virtual meetups like in-person events

When invited to a virtual happy hour or if you’re “meeting” someone cute for digital drinks, don’t stress. Click on the link once you’ve poured with the beverage of your choice. Once again, you’ve taken the reigns of the situation and the likelihood of someone asking why you’re not drinking is slim. 

Keep your own sobriety and sanity at the forefront of your mind though. You can also decline a virtual event just like you can an in-person one. If it sounds like your proposed event may cause you to do some happy hour “compare and despair”, go ahead and skip it.

Believe it or not, people don’t really care that much if you don’t drink. I recommend acting as relaxed as possible about the whole situation. Also, some of my most amazing life-experiences have occurred while I’ve been sober AF. It’s been nearly twelve years since my last drink, and there’s not one day where I think, “this (day, dinner, movie, concert) would be better with a glass of something.”