The holidays will no doubt look a bit different this year, thanks to social distancing. This said, you will, at some point, likely find yourself around some holiday cocktails in December if you are having a small, safe meet-up with friends or family or even if you’re meeting virtually. Thankfully, this doesn’t need to be a stressful event that may derail your sobriety. 

One thing you can do is walk through the scenario mentally ahead of time, so you can prepare yourself for turning down a drink when offered. If you’re with someone who doesn’t know you’re sober, it doesn’t even need to be a thing. Here’s how. 

Be Direct & Tell the Truth

Just be direct, matter-of-fact, and move on. “I don’t drink, but thank you,” or “I’m not drinking right now,” are very effective ways to decline a festive mulled wine or gingerbread cocktail when offered. If you’re friendly with the host, you can request that there be a non-alcoholic cocktail option as well or bring your own.

True friends and supportive loved ones won’t question you for making a positive change for your health and wellness. Hopefully, they’ll support it and encourage you on your journey. If someone has an issue with you not drinking, you will likely need to re-evaluate that relationship. Life is too short to surround yourself with people who will drag you down. Always choose people who have your back and want the best for you. And who knows, maybe they will come around with time. 

Keep it Light & Stay the Course

Here are some silly ways to decline a cocktail with grace, humor, and ease. Although we still think that direct honesty is typically the best way to go with almost everything. Every potentially uncomfortable conversation be it advocating for a raise, asking for more in your relationship, setting boundaries with your roommate, or telling someone you’re sober benefits from you staying neutral, direct, honest, and forthright. Don’t make something a bigger deal than it needs to be. Relax. You’ve got this!

“I’m off everything in 2020.”

2020 has been a challenging, tough, and destabilizing year. Words like “unprecedented” and “new normal” and “social distancing” and “mask fashion” have made their way into our heads and now seem stuck there. This is the ultimate year of “one day at a time”-ing life. No one will question any significant change this year because it has been a year of incessant change. 

“Looks delicious, but I just came from the dentist.”

My dentist’s office is across the street from my favorite coffee chain shop. But after a dental cleaning, getting a sugar-laden venti of anything is the furthest thing from my mind. I like to keep my mouth feeling pristine and minty fresh for at least the commute home. So, simply tell someone you just came from having those pearly whites buffed, and they can back off with the sugary, sweet, and alcoholic drink.

“I’m on diaper duty later tonight.”

It doesn’t even matter if you don’t have kids perhaps you have wee ones in your life, like nieces or nephews or the children of dear friends. Who are they to know that you don’t mean your own children? If you’re seeing kids later in the day or evening, no one well, no sane adult will question your refusal of alcohol for this reason. 

“I have to go to church after this.”

Similarly, religion can work as an excuse. And say you’re declining a cocktail in the evening, so the idea of church afterward may sound a little preposterous. Yet, this person offering you a drink should not presume to know where and how you worship.  

“I wish I could, but I’m fasting.”

Religiously adjacent, you can claim to be fasting — aka abstaining from all food and drink for a period of time.  

“I’m on a strict budget, so I’m cutting out alcohol.”

Drinking is expensive, and with the financial instability of this year and the constant economic uncertainty no one will question cutting out alcohol as a cost-cutting measure. Being on a budget and managing your finances smartly is respectable, powerful, and aspirational. And if someone doesn’t it like because it leaves them with one less drinking buddy, who cares? That’s their issue, not yours. 

“I have to get up early tomorrow, so I can’t drink.”

You’ve got a very busy schedule you’re constantly building the empire that is your life! Perhaps you’ve got to wake up and run 12 miles or equally important! sleep till 12 to catch up on your health and wellness, and recharge. People don’t know your life, and frankly, you don’t owe them any supplemental information in support of your decision to not drink. As the saying goes: “No” is a complete sentence. 

“Thank you, but I don’t drink alcohol. Looks great, though!”

Kind. Simple. Direct. Honest. Light. What could be better?

Although it can sometimes be awkward to be the only sober person in the room, it’s important to stand your ground and learn to say “no.” Still, it’s also okay if you are not yet confident enough or don’t want to reveal information about your sobriety, and you’d rather turn down a holiday cocktail in the easiest way possible. Use your discretion and the eight phrases above to just say NO when you mean no.