12 Things Not to Say to Your Friend Who Isn't Drinking This St. Patrick's Day


St. Patrick’s Day is a holiday that celebrates Irish heritage.

But it’s also a holiday — like many modernized holidays — that presents an opportunity to drink. And for those who are recovering from alcoholism, stay sober for medical reasons or just simply don’t like to drink, participating in these festivities can be a challenge. And it’s not necessarily the temptation to drink that’s challenging — it’s sometimes how people treat those who don’t drink that make these “drinking holidays” hard.

So, to get a sense of what people who don’t drink don’t appreciate hearing, we asked people who are staying sober in our mental health community to share one thing they don’t want to hear from friends and family this St. Patrick’s Day.

Here’s what they shared with us:

1. “’Come on, just have one!’ One could mean several serious side effects from the numerous medications I’m on. I choose not to drink. Please respect that.” — Justine P.

2. “Please don’t tell me that I ‘used to be more fun.’ I need your love and understanding, not hurtful or judgmental words.” — Steph R.

3. “‘You don’t drink? So what do you do for fun?’ A lot of things that doesn’t have to involve drinking.” — Aaron-Phoenix M.

4. “People shouldn’t say, ‘Oh, come on — it’s a special occasion. Don’t be lame.’ People should say, “Can I buy you a soda or get you a water, you don’t have to drink alcohol to have fun.” –Suewanda B.

5.It would be fantastic if the people who know why I’m not drinking simply didn’t mention drinking to me — even well intended comments like, “See, you don’t need to drink to have fun anyway,” draw attention to the fact I’m not drinking! It just brings it to the front of my mind, as well as everyone else’s! — Charlotte O.

6. “‘Just one drink wont hurt you. Don’t be a party pooper.’ One drink can ruin years of discipline and hard work. Offering a friend a non-spirited drink to keep them included isn’t bad. — Leondra J.

7. “I was at a little get together at a friend’s house, and they were all trying to get me to drink, My ‘friend’ even had the nerve to say, “If you love me you’ll drink.” I ended up walking out and going home. Moral of the story… don’t manipulate anyone into drinking, take no as no. You can have fun without drinking!” — Kennedy L.

8. “Stop saying, ‘Drinking will be make everything better and is cheaper than therapy.’ When I say, ‘No, thank you,’ just respond with, ‘OK.’” — Mimi B.

9.‘It’s just one day! Holidays shouldn’t count!’ I haven’t had a drink in over three and a half years and people still say things like that. And as an addict I’m already struggling with my own ways to rationalize using. I don’t need support on bad thoughts from others, too.” — Alissa S.

10. “People definitely should not say, “Oh, come on, it’s only one drink”… cuz for me, there’s no such thing as ‘only one drink’… so no alcohol for me, thanks… club soda with a touch of lime juice suits me just fine.” — Pam M.

11. “If you don’t think you can have fun sober you ought to try it! I hate when people shove drinks in my face. ‘Oh here…drink it…c’mon…you know you want to.’ Um, no. I’m good.” — Jennifer O.

12.Don’t make it a big deal. This is how a simple interaction should go: Person 1: *notices me not drinking alcohol or anything* can I get you a drink? Me: sure but I don’t drink alcohol Person 1: that’s ok, let me get you your favorite beverage, on me. Not so hard, now is it?” — Ariana M.

If you or a loved one is affected by addiction and need help, you can call SAMHSA’s hotline at 1-800-662-4357.

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