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Someone not drinking alcohol? It’s none of your business.

Dillon McClernon

Authored by Dillon McClernon

Hundreds of reasons can explain why someone chooses not to drink alcohol – but they don’t owe you an explanation.

For many, drinking booze is a fun social pastime. For others, it leads to destructive behaviors. Some choose sobriety because of medical conditions. Some don’t like the way alcohol makes them feel. People who are pregnant or trying to conceive may avoid imbibing as well.

Whatever the reasons, none of them are our business, according to our Clinical Services at Recovery. “We don’t have to know the reasons why somebody is choosing to engage in a behavior that they find to be a part of their wellness practices to support them.”

Our clinical experts discussed why people should never ask someone about their sobriety – and how to respond if they do.

Why you should never ask why someone isn’t drinking

If someone does ask, they could be forcing that person into a painful conversation they aren’t ready to have, like a struggle with addiction, infertility, or other personal reasons.

They could be in recovery or working toward recovery, or they could be in a “contemplative stage of change,” where they “recognize they’re struggling with something but they’re not sure exactly the problem they feel they have with it.”

And while there’s a growing movement of sober-curious people, a large prevalence of Americans still struggle with alcohol abuse. One in 10 Americans over the age of 12 have an alcohol use disorder, according to the National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics.

Alcohol is everywhere: Why it’s still so hard not to drink

Beyond addiction, if a friend is not drinking alcohol, they may be pregnant or trying to get pregnant, and “both can be stressful for someone with infertility,” says Betsy Campbell, chief engagement officer for RESOLVE, an organization that helps people struggling to build their family.

“Studies show that an infertility diagnosis is just as stressful as a cancer diagnosis,” she adds.

Infertility is also common. In the U.S. among heterosexual women 15 to 49 years old with no prior births, about 1 in 5 are unable to get pregnant after one year of trying, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports. About 1 in 4 women in this group have difficulty getting pregnant or carrying a pregnancy to term.

How to respond when someone turns down a drink

If someone says “no” to an alcoholic drink, you can simply reply with, “OK. Can I get you something else?”

“That’s literally the response,” according to our clinical experts. Friends and family members shouldn’t push for answers and let loved ones approach them if they wish to share more about their decision to not drink, whether it’s just for one night or long-term.

Everybody has a story, but “not everybody has a right to knowing it,” she says.

How to respond when someone asks why you aren’t drinking

They should never ask why in the first place, but they probably will. “People are asking innocently,” Campbell says, “yet they may not realize that they are being unintentionally hurtful or raising a subject that the person doesn’t want to talk about.”

If questions do arise, here are some examples of what to say:

  • “I don’t drink.”
  • “I don’t like the way I feel on it.”
  • “I’m practicing wellness.”
  • “I’m the designated driver.”
  • “I have an allergy to alcohol.”
  • “Drinking goes against my religious beliefs.”
  • “I don’t want to.”
  • “I don’t drink anymore.”
  • “I’m in recovery.”
  • “I don’t feel like drinking tonight.”

How to be inconspicuous when avoiding alcohol

If someone wants to avoid probing questions about their alcohol consumption, there are some ways to abstain from drinking without being obvious. Here are some ideas:

  • Order a club soda with a lime in it.
  • Put water in a Solo cup. Usually, people don’t ask what’s in it.
  • Use a koozie to cover a canned beverage like soda or sparkling water.
  • If attending a party, bring your own beverage of choice. People are less inclined to ask because they saw you come in with it.
  • Try a nonalcoholic beer, wine, or cocktail.

Decoy drink or not, it’s up to the asking individuals to be more aware of these situations, and avoid making someone uncomfortable because they feel like they have to give an answer, according to our clinical experts. “The power is that you don’t.”

“Someone not drinking alcohol? It’s none of your business.”,, “”

Authored by

Dillon McClernon

Dillon McClernon

Dillon currently serves as the Senior Director of Sales and Marketing at RCA. After his tenure as Chief Communications Officer and senior advisor to RCA, he opted for a full-time position at RCA where he could build a new team linking sales and marketing to directly impact RCA’s mission of saving 1 million lives.


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