Refusal Skills

How to avoid risky situations and refuse alcohol during those times

Refusal Skills

The best plan is to avoid risky, "slippery" places. Slippery places are opportunities for you to drink or use
even if you believe your willpower will keep it from happening. For example, planning to go to your
favorite bar to shoot pool and drink soft drinks is a setup. Because the bar has many cues for you to
drink, it is a slippery place for you. Avoiding persons, places, and things that provide powerful cues is an
excellent strategy.

If you must be at risk, be prepared. Refusing alcohol and other substances takes skill. Practice and
planning are key to successful refusal. People may mildly encourage you to use, and some may even
try to apply extreme pressure. What will you do to stay safe?

If you are pressured:
  What will you say?
  Have your "script" ready. Make it short and assertive.

  What if someone pushes you to drink or to explain why you don't want to?
  You do not have to offer an explanation; if you wish to respond, make it brief.

  What if someone tries to hand you a drink?
  A polite assertive no is all you need to say. Having a drink in hand may help. Remember:
  Your whole world and certainly your quality of life depend on you being able and willing to
  say, "No, thank you!"

Here are some additional ways to turn down or avoid drinking alcohol:
• Take your own nonalcoholic beverages.
• Practice what you will say. This will allow you to feel more comfortable when the time comes to
refuse. The following are some suggestions:
"No, thanks!"
"I have a soda, thanks."
"Thanks, I'm fine."
"I'm not drinking tonight."
"I've decided that drinking isn't good for me."
"I feel better when I don't drink."
"I'm driving and I don't want to drink."
"I have decided I don't handle alcohol well."
"My doctor told me not to drink."
"I don't like the way I feel the next day after I drink."
"I'm taking a break from alcohol."
"I don't want just a couple, I want ten! It's not for me anymore."
"No, thanks. I'm on medication."
Add your own: ____________________
• Go with a friend who is in recovery or who supports your recovery and will not use. This can give
you needed support to use your skills and stay clean.

Developed by Kathy F. Grace, MA, LPC
Addictions Therapist
Reproduced with permission