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Here’s what to say when someone asks “Why aren’t you drinking?”

In early recovery, it’s best to stay away from social situations where people are drinking in order to avoid any temptation. But as time goes on and you become more stable in your recovery, it may be nearly impossible to avoid situations in which others are consuming alcohol. Inevitably, you’ll face someone who asks the pointed question: So why aren’t you drinking? For many people in recovery, the answer might just simply be that – “I’m in recovery.” But for others who aren’t ready to share their journey or simply don’t want to, answering this question can be uncomfortable and difficult to navigate. Here are a few different ways you can respond honestly without spilling any details about your recovery.

“I’m driving or I’m the designated driver”

Those in recovery often choose to be the designated driver for this exact reason – it’s one of the oldest and best excuses in the book and typically the easiest way to end the conversation without delving into anything personal. After all, who can argue with responsibility?

“I am allergic to alcohol”

In the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, the section entitled ‘The Doctors Opinion’ states that alcoholism presents itself as a physical allergy. The term “allergy” references the fact individuals with this disease have a reaction to and craving for alcohol that they cannot control whereas non-alcoholics do not. Many recovering alcoholics believe this to be the case for them, so it’s perfectly acceptable to use this excuse without any guilt for not answering honestly.

“I just don’t drink”

Many people, even those who aren’t in recovery live a dry lifestyle – some don’t like the way alcohol makes them feel the next day, some don’t enjoy the loss of control, and some have been affected by addiction by way of family members or friends, so they choose not to drink. Whatever the reasoning is, it’s perfectly acceptable to not consume alcohol. Responding in this fashion will establish clear boundaries between you and the person asking why you’re not drinking.

“I’m not in the mood”

Answering in this fashion helps normalize the idea that everyone doesn’t have to drink in social situations in order to have a good time. Whether you struggle with substance use disorder or not, it’s perfectly acceptable to not feel like drinking and still enjoy the time you share with friends and family.

“I don’t like who I become when I drink”

For many of us, this is our truth. After all, it’s likely one of the key points that brought us to the realization that we are alcoholics. However, responding in this way doesn’t necessarily “out” you as a recovering alcoholic – it just helps establish that you have made a clear and conscious decision to steer clear of alcohol for personal reasons. And those reasons are exactly that: personal.

No matter how you choose to respond to the question “why aren’t you drinking?” whether with rigorous honesty, or sharing a partial truth that fits within your comfort level, the most important thing in recovery is making sure not to take that first drink.

If you find yourself in a social situation that has you feeling tempted to accept a drink, be sure to step away and call your sponsor, someone in your recovery support network, or a fellow RCA alumnus. No matter the time or day, there are plenty of supportive individuals awaiting your call.

To get connected with the Alumni Association at Recovery Centers of America, please email alumni@recoverycoa.com or visit our alumni webpage for more information. 

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