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Ordering a non-alcoholic drink

How to abstain from alcohol

Got work drinks or a friend's birthday to go to, but you don't fancy drinking alcohol? You can still go out and have fun sober.

We can often find ourselves socialising somewhere where it's expected that we'll get drunk but perhaps don't want to. Whatever your reasons for wanting to cut down on booze or stop drinking alcohol completely, check out these strategies for abstaining in different social settings.

Going out clubbing

The situation: It's your mate's birthday. He wants to have a big night on the tiles; you don't fancy getting trashed but know he'll be mortified if you don't show up. How do you get out of getting drunk without offending your friend or making it a big deal?

How to abstain: Keep your dancing energy up with sugary drinks or snacks like bananas and nuts. This is the trick that 25-year-old Ellie uses: "If I'm going clubbing, I get a sugar boost from an energy drink, so I can keep up with the party animals," she says. Mocktails and soft drinks, like lemonade, orange juice, iced tea and tonic water, will also work. Add a wedge of lime and ice cubes to make your drink look like it contains alcohol.

Take time over your drinks so that you can dodge out of rounds. If that fails, you can accidentally knock over the drink your friend 'kindly' buys for you or 'lose' it by putting it down somewhere on your way to the toilet, the same way you'd escape an unreciprocated admirer.

The work 'do'

The situation: Your office has won an award, you need to win over a new client, someone is leaving, it has been one hell of a Monday, or your boss just wants to feel popular. Any excuse for a drink and some employers and their employees will take it. Free bars or someone else picking up the tab can make it even harder to refuse alcohol, or feel pressured to join in on rounds.

How to abstain: Conferences and events where complimentary drinks are on offer will usually have a non-alcoholic alternative, like orange juice. If you're out having work drinks in a more informal or intimate group, try telling the truth. Tell people that you just don't feel like drinking alcohol and firmly say "No" when they pile on the pressure for you to join them in a round of tequila slammers. If your willpower is weak you may find it hard at first, but after a while of going out and not drinking you will find it becomes easier to refuse drinks.

The pub crawl

The situation: It's the weekend and you and your mates are going out. You want to join in on the fun but you know the main emphasis will be on downing drinks and getting hammered. How can you avoid the rounds without looking like a cheapskate out to ruin their night?

How to abstain: Be sneaky. If telling the truth means your mates will still be fetching you booze and expecting you to keep up with them, tell a little white lie. Say you're driving, ill and on antibiotics, and that you really can't drink because you got trashed on Monday night and found yourself swinging from a lamppost naked, so don't want to go there again. Embellish details as you see fit to make sure the story is convincing. The beauty of this method is that you can also scarper before the night gets particularly ugly, if you wish to.


The situation: You want to hang out with your best mate or date but you don't want a boozy night.

How to abstain: If you're not very good at saying no to a pint, why not find some alternative things to do for a night off? Instead of going to the pub, consider going out for dinner, for coffee or to the cinema. "I take breaks from drinking because when I drink I tend to binge drink," says Ben, 19. "It is also a lifestyle decision - generally the less I drink the more productive I am. I'm probably more inclined to meet friends for a coffee if I'm not drinking. I may go along for two soft drinks with someone who's drinking, but I'll rarely stick around for the silly stuff."

Breaking out of the routine of regular boozing like this can be a great way to learn to take or leave drink in social situations. Find other ways to let off steam like swimming, running, dancing or even shagging, all of which can make you feel happier and healthier without involving alcohol.

Updated: 06/06/2011

Written by Susie Wild

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