39 Excuses for Not Drinking

By Kristance Harlow 11/17/16

I keep a rolodex of diverse excuses to make people shut up when they won't stop pressuring me to drink, from the hilarious to the somber.

A man holding a few alcoholic drinks.
"Really? Not even one?"

Other people shouldn’t have a problem with you saying no to a drink. Unfortunately, as with many scenarios, "no" is not always accepted as a final answer. There may be people who, for reasons of their own, will pressure you to take that first drink. The fear of this pressure can discourage someone from attending events where their old drinking buddies are likely to be partying. I do not suggest using excuses as a way to manipulate someone, but I do encourage keeping a rolodex of diverse excuses to make people shut up when they won't stop pressuring you to drink.

Not everyone wants to disclose alcoholism, so what can you say to make people leave you alone? There are a lot of options—from the hilarious to the somber.


Most people don’t care about other people’s choice of beverage. For these lovely folks, a basic response should suffice for when they have asked you more than once.

  1. “No, really no, thank you.”
  2. “Nah, I’m good.”
  3. “I’m not drinking right now.”

Get Awkward

If you’re anything like me, you enjoy a good uncomfortable and awkward moment. It can be the best comedy fodder for dispersing tension in a room. To capitalize on the awkward, try one of these responses:

  1. Laugh loudly, pause for a moment too long, continue laughing, abruptly stop laughing and solemnly declare, “No.”
  2. Stare at them in silent confusion, laugh loudly, then pat them on the back as you walk away continuing to laugh.
  3. “It gives me runny shits.”
  4. “No thanks,” pause before continuing calmly, “The gas produced in my intestines by alcohol is something no one should experience.” Pause again and end with a dignified, “Really, it’s quite horrifying.”
  5. Tilt your head in exasperation, “Hashtag, ain’t nobody got time for that.”

Be Funny

When cajoled for the nth time that you should just have a drink, turn down the offer with a joke.

  1. “I have spilled more booze than you’ve ever drunk, yikes, let’s not risk it.”
  2. “I make enough stupid decisions sober.”
  3. “My coordination leaves a lot to be desired as it is, no need to make it worse.”
  4. “I’ve dabbled in alcoholism and it didn’t work for me.”
  5. “I just don’t have time to end up in the drunk tank tonight.”
  6. “I am allergic to booze. It causes me to break out in handcuffs.”
  7. “I’m an all or nothing kind of person, so for today it will be nothing.”
  8. "You know how I am sober. Do you really want to see me drunk?"

Talk Health

Perhaps someone means well with their persistent check-in about whether you’re sure you don’t want something to drink. If you want to placate their anxiety about why you are not imbibing, try a health excuse.

  1. Say that you are on antibiotics.
  2. Casually mention that you had to take some medicine and can’t drink on it.
  3. “Drinking gives me headaches.”
  4. “I’m allergic.”
  5. “I don’t feel well, no thanks.”
  6. “I’m trying to lose weight.”

Drop Some Knowledge

Maybe someone won't respond to anything subjective. In these cases, some well-placed knowledge might be the only effective deterrent. For those instances, try out one of these suggestions:

  1. “While alcohol is a sedative-hypnotic in the acute intoxication for many drinkers, I experience a significant increase in sleep apnea oxygen deprivation. As such, I cannot risk it.”
  2. “I am of the subset who experiences vasoconstriction with alcohol consumption, intensifying already debilitating migraines. I won’t subject myself to that pain.”
  3. “I am a compulsive individual. Alcohol’s dampening effect on gamma-aminobutyric acid neurotransmitters slows down my executive functioning and my compulsive reactions turn into risk behavior that threatens the safety of all living things in my vicinity.”

Slay Haters

For when an asshole won't stop, I am in full support of a well-placed and smartly executed insult to knock someone down a peg. A subtle snarky remark can do the trick, too. Plus, having a witty comeback readily takes away the emotional anger that can appear in the moment of an altercation and threaten sobriety. A note: please practice common sense and maybe don’t try these if someone seems violently angry.

  1. “I much prefer to experience life in HD, I don't need alcohol to cover my inadequacies.”
  2. “I care about myself and my family and friends too much to drink poison.”
  3. “Didn’t you hear me the first time? You need a hobby aside from annoying me.”
  4. “Why knowingly and willingly drink something that makes one weak and sick?”
  5. “No, but I would love a glass of ice water. I find that it really helps me to mind my own business. Should I order you one?”
  6. If someone is invading your space and hitting on you, slash their dreams by letting them know, “Beer goggles, no matter how strong of a prescription, would not make me attracted to you. Stop wasting your time and mine.”
  7. “It tastes like rancid sewer rat piss, get out of my face with your foul rodent urine.”

Connect Spiritually

Maybe it’s one of those nights that—when you were drinking—you would have spent all night jabbering about the meaning of life and the number of stars in the sky. Don’t let go of those deep conversations, if you don’t want to. Feel free to get spiritual with your excuse for not drinking.

  1. “I gave up drinking for a way of life that works better for me.”
  2. “I realized I don't fully experience the intoxicating beauty of Mother Earth when I'm fogged up from being chemically intoxicated.”
  3. “I found myself a new higher power and alcohol doesn’t mix well.”

Be Honest

One of the suggestions above might ring true for you, but maybe you’re more of a straight shooter. Whether you are dealing with someone who doesn’t take bullshit or if you want to squash the question once and for all, there is always the option to be honest.

  1. “I am a recovering alcoholic.”
  2. Regale them with your most horrifying drunk tale from the past. It will scare them out of ever asking you to drink again.
  3. “I could drink, but I know the consequences so I won’t.”
  4. “Maybe I should write it down for you: I do not drink alcohol, so stop telling me to have a drink.”
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Kristance Harlow is a freelance writer and mental illness advocate. She fights stigma and writes about uncomfortable experiences. She lives in a foreign land with her husband and rescue pupster. Find Kristance on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, or her blog.