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Resisting Pressure to Drink Alcohol at Social Functions

A recent Miss Manners column tackled a question from a person who labels him or herself as a “nondrinker” that could have just as easily come from someone who had been through an alcohol abuse recovery program. Maintaining sobriety is not easy and when one is out trying to be social, it is not help to have people draw attention to the fact that you are not drinking.

The letter writer talks about people asking about that person’s choice to abstain from alcohol and feels that people ” are not aware that the question is inappropriate. I do not want to discuss my reasons with casual acquaintances, but I also do not want to make anyone feel embarrassed at having inadvertently asked an impolite question.”

The person says that sometimes deflecting with a humorous answer is not enough and people persist in a line of inquiry about the choice not to drink alcohol.

The letter writer also expressed concern about his or her reputation: “I can’t shake the feeling that I’m inspiring unfavorable speculation about my personal life, which is especially troubling when speaking with colleagues.”

Miss Manners suggested a cheerful “I just don’t like it.” and implied that there really is no need to get into one’s reasons (e.g. not liking the taste of alcohol or its effects).

The letter writer is doing the right thing by trying to cheerfully deflect the questions. Peer pressure to drink can be experienced at any age. It is also possible that while the letter writer is using the right words (e.g. “It’s just not my thing.”), there is something in the person’s tone of voice that makes people think it is okay to continue pressing for an answer. If a cheerful deflection and changing the subject don’t’ work, a graceful departure to join a different conversation might be necessary.

When you are just starting addiction recovery, your counselors may advise that you not go to gatherings where there is a lot of alcohol as you may find it difficult to resist temptation. Over time, however, you will need to work on strategies to handle the temptation.