"learn to say NO!"

SAYING NO TO ALCOHOL – You’ll Need a Plan, A lot of Patience, And Support!

While I think my story will resonate with a lot of people, it is unique to me and ibased on my own personal experiences. I am content in my life choices both good and bad, as they have helped to shape the person I am today and driven me to seek better for myself and for others.

We live in a society that has embraced alcohol for a very long time. Half of the world’s population consumes alcohol, and alcoholic beverages are a staple of nearly every culture on Earth, save those whose religion specifically restricts alcohol. This is one of the main reasons why many find it hard to reduce, quit or stay on the proverbial “wagon”. It’s ingrained in our culture, it’s available everywhere, and it’s accepted by many the world over.

Another reason really comes down to a lack of alcohol-free (AF) options, but thankfully that is also changing, and one of the driving forces behind DRNK. We are all very different, each situation is different and there is no one fit solution when it comes to breaking a habit, especially one like alcohol. But hopefully, there will be something in here that you can utilize or perhaps reading this helps you get to a point where you can just answer that question with a simple “No thanks, I am not drinking”.

What Prompted Me to Quit? – I first quit alcohol over 10 years ago. It involved me being totally wasted as the maid of honour at my sister’s wedding. I was drunk at the wedding itself and my last vivid memory was arriving at the banquet hall for the reception. I don’t remember giving my speech, I don’t really remember interacting with anyone…and to be honest, it was all just one big blur. I was told by others of my shenanigans which included, guzzling the large bottle of wine at the head table; I thought I was helping my sister by lifting her dress so that she could dance, but apparently, I kept raising it over her head; I started opening presents; I fell off a table; my dad had to pile me in the car and drive me home, and the list goes on. The next day my younger cousin told me she didn’t want me as a role model anymore. That broke my heart😟. I responded, “I can stop drinking you know!”, to which someone said, “I don’t think you can!”. This started a three-year stint of sobriety.

Learning How to Say No to Alcohol – Turning down alcohol or ordering something else was so hard at first. The words “double rum and coke with a Heineken chaser”, (that’s what I was drinking back then), would just flow out of my mouth! How do you get rid of that kind of muscle memory? It takes a lot of practice.

And then when I went out, people would have drinks waiting for me. So now I not only had to break my habit but the expectations others had of me. I had to learn self-love and the realization that I wasn’t there for anyone else’s entertainment. This required a very long, hard look in the mirror. This internal struggle took me years to sort through… close to a decade of truly finding myself! I’ll expand on this in a later blog as I think this was one of my biggest challenges.

  • I started ordering drinks like ginger ale or coke to make it look like I was drinking
  • I would offer to be the designated driver
  • I would practice saying no in my head so that I didn’t accidentally say yes
  • I would fake having important things to do the next day
  • I told people I was pregnant (this only worked for a limited time obviously)
  • I told people that I was a recovering alcoholic (in the corporate world, this was the easiest way to diffuse the myriad of follow-up questions and still be respected)

Funny enough, in the beginning, it was easier for me to lie than tell the truth, that I had made a decision to give up alcohol.

Eventually, I started to remove myself from temptation and started going out a bit less, just until I was more comfortable in those situations. After a while, not drinking became more normal for me. I was also very lucky as my parents were very supportive of my choice to abstain and that helped a lot as well. Not all of my friends were at first…and my friend circle changed, and for the better, I would say.

Tips N Tricks to Saying No! – Society is changing and becoming more accepting of non-drinkers. This will help as there will be less and less judgement being passed on anyone who decides to say “NO”. But we aren’t quite there as yet, so how do you say no and not feel awkward? One article I read talked about having some excuses ready1.

  • You have an early class or work shift in the morning
  • You’re still feeling hungover from the night before
  • You’re seeing your family for a bright and early breakfast
  • You are on antibiotics

You could also get the bartender on your side; tell them you can’t drink but you don’t want to have to explain. Every time you order vodka and soda, they should pour you soda water. Just make sure to tip the bartender well for being your ally in this situation.

Get Support – But if you have the courage and the desire to just be honest, it might also surprise and enlighten you. Your friends and family should support you in everything that you do, especially something that is improving your health. If this is a longer-term decision, try having an open and honest conversation. And if your friends are on your side, they will help you overthrow temptation.

Remember, habits take time to break, and this habit might have turned into an addiction for you. You are very likely to take two steps forward and three steps back. Don’t lose faith and get disgruntled if you do misstep. Just start again. A phrase my parents use to say to me when I was a kid comes to mind (I am not quite sure who’s quote this belongs to), “If at first, you don’t succeed, try and try again!”.

If you need additional help, I’ve listed some support groups and services below Please do not hesitate to reach out! Everyone needs a little help in life🙏🏽

Alcoholics AnonymousA fellowship of people who come together to solve their drinking problems
Health CanadaLists Canada-wide services that support and help those suffering from substance abuse
Counselling BCFind the help you need with over 600 psychologists, counsellors and other professional therapists available to help with almost any substance abuse concern

Sources used:

  1. 8 Ways to Turn Down Alcohol if You Aren’t Drinking – Source: Healthine.com