Refusal Skills For Alcohol: The Tools You Need To Say No & Mean It!

Why You Need Refusal Skills For Alcohol

If you’re reading this it’s safe to assume you:

Refusal Skills For Alcohol

If you’re honest with yourself, alcohol is inescapable. Avoiding it for a time is not only prudent but doable.

However, eventually, you’ll face the siren and she will most certainly call from her rocks (obscure reference to Greek mythology, seemed fitting!)

Even Alcoholics Anonymous, an organization that is 100% alcohol-free, not even a pinch of harm management in sight, acknowledges this reality. 

“In our belief any scheme of combating alcoholism which proposes to shield the sick man from temptation is doomed to failure. If the alcoholic tries to shield himself he may succeed for a time, but he usually winds up with a bigger explosion than ever. We have tried these methods. These attempts to do the impossible have always failed.

So our rule is not to avoid a place where there is drinking, if we have a legitimate reason for being there. That includes bars, nightclubs, dances, receptions, weddings, even plain ordinary whoopee parties. To a person who has had experience with an alcoholic, this may seem like tempting Providence, but it isn’t.

You will note that we made an important qualification. Therefore, ask yourself on each occasion, “Have I any good social, business, or personal reason for going to this place? Or am I expecting to steal a little vicarious pleasure from the atmosphere of such places?” If you answer these questions satisfactorily, you need have no apprehension. Go or stay away, whichever seems best. But be sure you are on solid spiritual ground before you start and that your motive in going is thoroughly good. Do not think of what you will get out of the occasion. Think of what you can bring to it. But if you are shaky, you had better work with another alcoholic instead!”

I’m not convinced I understand what a whoopee party is but I’m convinced I wouldn’t dismiss the invite!

Whether you are a God-fearing saint, spiritually curious, agnostic, or atheistic, the overarching thrust of this message is solid. 

  • What’s your motive?
  • Is your intention healthy?
  • Is the encounter aligned with your goals?

If yes, then proceed. 

You are not without methods for overcoming potential barriers and roadblocks.

With The Persistent Host

You may be early in sobriety or have some time under your belt. 

The fact is, whether it’s with friends or family, perhaps work or some other event, the encounter will arrive. 

Unfortunately, not all hosts are created equal.

Some can be pushy, insistent, and down-right disrespectful.

Sometimes the good old, “no thanks” is insufficient. 

This article is an attempt to dump some tools in your toolbox for when that time arrives. 

Never be blindsided.

Always be prepared. 

Refusal Skills For Alcohol

So, what’s the plan look like?

Social pressure is inevitable, do you have a concrete plan on how to handle this?

I think this is why Bill Wilson wrote,

Refusal Skills For Alcohol

Are you ready for the low point?

Don’t be naïve and assume “I got this.” 

That’s the equivalent of a football coach not preparing to play the best team in the world and telling his team “don’t worry, you guys got this.”

That’s silly. The coach would first review the previous games of the competition. He would write down their plays and modify his own plays accordingly. 

Is our alcohol free life any different?

What are you going to say when you’re offered a drink?

Have a refusal that is convincing and respectful, but hold firm on your convictions. 

Refusal Skills For Alcohol

Don’t let anything or anyone soil your authentic self.

For starters:

Refusal Skills For Alcohol

No explanation is necessary.

However, you can and should have plenty of preprogrammed responses available:

  • No, thanks… I don’t drink.
  • No, thanks. I’m not drinking tonight.
  • No, thank you. I am taking medication that doesn’t mix with alcohol.
  • Thank you for the offer, but I’d really rather not.
  • Actually, do you have a Pepsi?

To be frank, most people respect your refusal and simply comply with your request. 

In fact, on most occasions, no one even asks. Particularly if you already have a beverage in your hand, a soda or water bottle for instance. 

It will feel strange but that’s the feeling of any new behavior. 

The Power Of Visualization

They did this one study on basketball players. The goal of the study was to determine which course of action produced an increase of baskets in the player’s jump shot.

They had three groups.

One group practiced their jump shot a few hours each day.

Another group simply visualized themselves practicing their jump shot for the same amount of time.

And another group did absolutely nothing.

The results?

Well, it stands to reason that the ones that actually practiced improved the most, about 56%.

The group that visualized their shot actually improved 36%. 

Amazing, right?

And, the group that did nothing didn’t improve at all.

This Is Super Instructive.

The study tells us that purely visualizing going out to parties and refusing drinks will actually increase your capacity to actually do so.

It will give you confidence that you can do it and do so comfortably.

Therefore, rehearse your responses through visualization. Your brain really can’t tell the difference between your visualization and reality.

Refusal Skills For Alcohol

Additionally, write out your responses. 

Be thorough and try to imagine the various types of hosts and how they will react. 

The list should help prepare you for the pleasant and the persistent host.

If the host is too persistent, the plan should be to leave. 

If someone repeatedly crosses your personal boundaries, then it’s time to get out.

If you need a ride, have a friend on standby. 

As noted, be prepared!

Dealing with Urges

If the internal pressures are too overwhelming you should have a plethora of techniques to address this. 

ACT’s Urge Surfing, SMART Recovery’s DISARM strategy, my KOd Method, or any form of CBT and mindfulness.

For more information click here for my Alcohol Cravings Ultimate Toolbox.

Thorough Planning.

Questions are powerful.

You know why?

By the very fact they require answers.

This kind of brings us full circle to the passage from Alcoholics Anonymous, that is, “do you have sufficient reason for being there.” 

Is this event something that is inescapable? Is it a want or a need? Can you ride the bench this year?

If it is a need make sure you have a plan.

I know I’m beating a dead horse at this point but it’s so critical it’s worth repeating.

What’s your support look like? Do you have five people you can call if temptation overwhelms you? How about ten? Write them down. Name and number?

What’s your escape route?

Remember in grade school when they taught us fire safety?

Usually, this consisted of a direct route through the house, blueprint, and all, including a ladder or whatever another tool you need.

Well, this fire is no different.

Plan your escape route, for example don’t let your car get blocked in, or if someone else drove have a backup driver that can pick you up.

Be thorough. Leave no stone unturned.

Remember, recovery isn’t a prohibition, as if it’s “I cannot drink.” 

Instead, recovery is empowering. The truth is “I can not drink.”

The ball is in your court. You CAN do it!

I’d love to hear your refusal strategies and experiences, share below and join in on the conversation.