It goes without saying that early drug and alcohol recovery, in and of itself, is not the easiest. For many folks, however, one of the most challenging parts of being newly sober is explaining to others why we’re not drinking or using, particularly if that’s how most of our socializing was spent. And sure, it’s possible that you’ll dance through your sober life unaffected by the curiosity of others, but most of us in recovery have experienced otherwise. That being said, it gets much easier over time, and you actually don’t owe anyone an explanation, either. But if you’re ever in a situation where you feel like you need to explain yourself, here’s a list of some of our favorite go-to responses for inquisitive pals or party bystanders:

  1. Tell the truth. This can be as simple as, “I don’t drink.” Or maybe you feel comfortable enough about your sobriety to go into a little more detail if and where appropriate. Like maybe you wound up in the emergency room last time you drank, or you’ve gotten several DUIs, been injured, or you just want to live a hangover-free life. Your story is your story – you’re free to tell it, and you’re also free to keep it to yourself.
  2. “I’m the designated driver.” If you showed up in a taxi or an Uber then this probably won’t fly, but if you really are driving, then it’s the perfect excuse. Drunk driving is, for lack of a better word, stupid. It’s also really dangerous and if anyone gives you a hard time for not wanting to drink and drive, then they likely have some serious soul searching to do. That said, carry on with your very responsible self.
  3. “I don’t like to drink.” Ok, if you’re an addict, then this is maybe kind of a fib, but you really shouldn’t have to explain yourself anyway. If your nosy interrogator continues to pry and asks why you don’t like to drink, try telling them that you don’t like hangovers (duh – hangovers suck), or simply that you like to be in control. Also, keep in mind that the people who are the most perplexed about your sobriety may very likely have some of their own bad behavior to look at. Folks who don’t place much importance on drinking aren’t going to think it’s a big deal that you don’t like to drink.
  4. “I’m allergic to alcohol.” This actually isn’t a lie if you subscribe to the twelve-step theory that alcoholism is, in fact, an allergy. In the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, Dr. William Silkworth explains that the body of an alcoholic creates substances that cause irresistible cravings for more alcohol, along with a loss of control. The evidence isn’t supported anywhere else, but it’s an interesting theory and it’s one that many addicts in drug and alcohol recovery subscribe to. It also provides the perfect excuse.
  5. “I’m taking better care of my body.” Taking better care of ourselves is actually becoming a social norm, and there should never be any shame in treating your body right. These days, we’re doing more yoga, drinking more green juice, meditating more, and we’re simply more conscious in general about what we’re consuming. We’re living longer, too. So, hey, why not just relish in the fact that you get to feel good all the time because you’re treating that precious body of yours like a temple? Ain’t no shame in that.

We’ll end with this – it’s really no one’s business why you’re not drinking, but sometimes, particularly in early recovery, it can be challenging to navigate the question if it arises. You might feel like you owe people an explanation, or maybe you feel strange saying, point blank, “it’s none of your business” to someone. Whatever the reason, if it helps you feel more comfortable not taking that drink, then by all means, go ahead and arm yourself with a few good responses. And remember that your own drug and alcohol recovery is far more important than what anyone else thinks.

Do you have any tried-and-true responses for folks at social gatherings who want to know why you’re not jumping on the party bus and partaking in the booze? Let us know in the comments below. We’d love to hear from you.

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