For Guests Who Don’t Drink

Tell your spouse or friend before you go to a party or gathering that you may feel tempted by being around alcohol and that you need to be able to leave the party on a moments notice without having to explain why. You can always have an alternative place to go.

When you arrive at the gathering tell your host that you can probably only stay for a short time but that you will know more in a while after you make a telephone call. Then you are not obliged to stay and what usually happens is that you have a great time because there’s no pressure to stay.

If someone offers a drink, say "What a good idea I would love a drink! Do you have a soda-water with lemon or a coca-cola? This allows you to say yes and get what you want as well. Very few people will press anything alcoholic on you but when they do simply say "Not right now thank you but a coke would really hit the spot." 1

Remember that

  • You don't have to take a drink just because it's offered to you.
  • You can "lose" unwanted drinks that are given to you. For example, set them down and later walk away.
  • You can drink non-alcoholic drinks that look like alcoholic ones. For example, tomato juice, lemonade, iced tea, water with ice cubes, club soda with orange juice, tonic water with a twist or wedge of lime, and either orange juice or 7-Up with grenadine.
  • Stay away from people who give you a hard time about not drinking.

Saying "no" gets easier the more you do it. Practice refusing drinks politely. Or say something clever.

"I don't need any more hair on my chest."

"I'm performing neurosurgery in the morning."

"It sloshes too much when I jog."

or just “No thank you.” 2

For Guests Who Do Drink

Never push drinks on anyone who declines your offer. Choosing to abstain and choosing to drink in moderation are both equally acceptable options for adults.

Don’t assume that everyone should be drinking alcohol and that there’s something wrong with those who choose not to drink.

Never ask why someone isn’t drinking; that assumes that they should be drinking. Why they aren’t drinking isn’t our business.

For Hosts

There's no reason to be self-conscious about entertainment plans that include a guest who chooses not to drink for any reason. The Caron Foundation offers these "recovery etiquette" tips for thoughtful hosts.

  • Feel free to serve alcohol beverages at your gathering. You need not plan your party around a guest who abstains.
  • Don't make a big deal of it if someone at your party is abstaining from alcohol. There are many reasons people don‘t drink alcoholic beverages, including preference, dieting, interactions with medications, a problem with alcohol, and serving as designated driver. If someone declines a drink, don't ask why.
  • Include non-alcoholic beverages in your offerings. Stock your bar with sparkling water and cider, soft drinks, and juices.
  • If you're serving an alcoholic beverage with a meal, offer a non-alcoholic alternative as well.
  • Let guests know which foods and beverages contain alcohol. Remember that even foods cooked with alcoholic beverages generally contain some residual alcohol. 3

Party on... in moderation.

Disclaimer: This website is informational only. It makes no suggestions or recommendations about alcohol, drinking, rehabs, programs, or any other matter and none should be inferred. Neither this website nor your host receives any compensation, directly or indirectly, from listing or describing any program. Such listing or description does not imply endorsement. [+]


  • 1. White, Hamish. Recovery During the Holidays., June 29, 2005.
  • 2. Poliafico, F. J. Drinking Alcohol? Make an Informed Choice. Chester, Pennsylvania: Emergency and Safety Programs, 1994.
  • 3. The Caron Foundation is an addiction treatment center located in Wernersville, Pennsylvania.

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