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In a lot of circles, alcohol is a big part of the social scene. From college parties to weddings and simple get-togethers with friends, there’s often alcohol involved.

But what if you don’t drink?

Maybe you’re in recovery, or you’re just taking a break to see how it feels. Either way, you’re planning to get through the night alcohol-free.

Turning down alcohol can feel awkward, particularly if you’re hanging out with people who’ve seen you drink in the past.

Whether you’ve decided to go sober from now on or you’re just having a night off the booze, these tips can help you navigate the situation.

Of course, you can always be upfront about why you aren’t drinking, but you shouldn’t feel obligated to do so.

There’s no harm in telling a little white lie to get your friends off your back. Or, maybe it’s technically true, but it isn’t the reason you aren’t drinking. Either way, it’s a simple way to turn down drinks.

Here are a few potential excuses:

  • 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

If you really want somebody to stop questioning you, you can tell them that you’re on an antibiotic or other medication that doesn’t mix well with alcohol. When it comes to your health, people (usually) won’t challenge you.

If you’re meeting up with friends outside, you could bring sodas, or other non-alcoholic drinks of your choice, with you. If you’re already holding a drink, you’re less likely to be offered one, avoiding some potentially awkward conversations.

Meanwhile, if you’re going out to a bar, many bars have alcohol-free beers and ciders available. There are also always alternatives, like soda, juice, or water, if you prefer.

This is a little similar to the advice above, but it might work better for you.

If you’re comfortable holding alcohol and not actually drinking it, you could “nurse” a beverage, gradually “drinking” it by pouring it out in the bathroom or offering it to friends to try.

Maybe you’re cool with drinking a little alcohol, but you don’t want to get drunk. You could order a drink at the start of the evening and sip it over the course of a few hours, letting your friends assume it’s actually multiple drinks instead.

If you wanna look like you’re drinking, it doesn’t hurt to have a quiet word with the bartender. They serve everyone, and most won’t think any different of you for not drinking alcohol.

If you order a coke, for example, you could ask them to serve it in the same glass as they would a vodka coke. The two drinks look the same, and no one will suspect a thing.

With cocktails, you can take it a step further and order one that’s alcohol-free but ask them to fix it up and decorate yours like it’s alcoholic. The worst they can say is “no” — which is unlikely.

Excuses might work in the short term. But, if you’re planning on not drinking for a while, or you’re with trusted friends, you might consider being honest.

Everyone has a different relationship with alcohol, and it’s fine to be frank about your decision to avoid it. Unlike excuses, which may only work until the next time you go out with your friends, being honest can get your friends off your back long-term.

Who knows, you might even find out that someone else is navigating a similar situation.

Everybody should be aware of the risks surrounding drinking and driving, so why not offer to be the designated driver?

Your friends will thank you for taking one for the team, and you’ll be able to enjoy your time out without being badgered about drinking.

You don’t owe anyone an explanation, whether it’s the truth or an excuse.

If you don’t feel like explaining yourself to someone, you’re allowed to give them a “no” and leave it at that. Particularly if it’s a stranger, you’re entitled to keep your business private.

However, you might find that people aren’t bothered. The thought of not drinking in a social situation can sometimes be more difficult than the reality. Often, people just don’t care.

Plus, if you’re at a party or somewhere with a finite amount of alcohol, you’re doing them a favor by leaving more for everybody else.

After all, you’re not trying to police their drinking habits, you’re just saying no for yourself.

We’ve all been in a situation where somebody, be it a friend or a random individual, drunkenly comes up to us, starts talking, and word vomit comes out.

If they notice you’re not drinking, they might ask you why. Even if they’re a friend who’s aware that you don’t drink, alcohol has a knack for lowering people’s inhibitions, so they might still ask or pry for more details.

If you don’t feel like giving an answer — particularly to someone who’s drunk — you can change the subject. For example, ask them something about themselves, talk about the band or sports team on their T-shirt, or mention a mutual friend.

There are different reasons for not drinking, and it’s up to you to decide how open you want to be about your own circumstances.

Just remember that drinking (or not drinking) is a personal choice. You can still have a good time with your friends, even if you’re the only one not drinking — as long as you and your friends are all cool with each other’s choices.

Adam England is a freelance writer and journalist. His work has appeared in publications including The Guardian, Euronews, and VICE UK. He focuses on health, culture, and lifestyle. When he’s not writing, he’s probably listening to music.