Saying no to drugs and alcohol can be hard. There’s no denying that. However, with the right methods and mindset — it’s highly doable.

That’s probably why everyone loves real-world examples. Learning how other people face addiction and recovery challenges can provide a valuable guiding light for you. Doing something new or difficult is so much easier if you have concrete, tried-and-true strategies you can leverage.

It’s akin to trying to pen an essay from nothing versus starting with an outline. It can feel overwhelming or impossible when you’re staring at a blank page. But, with some keywords or a bit of structure — your masterpiece is practically writing itself!

Why It’s Important To Develop Your Own Creative Ways to Say No to Drugs & Alcohol

Saying no to harmful substances is not an insurmountable task. With some seedling ideas for inspiration, repetition, and encouragement from your support network — it will get easier and come more naturally. Have courage and just stick with it!

Bear in mind that finding your confidence, establishing your voice, and becoming your own advocate for your well-being are acquired skills. They don’t come naturally to most people (even if it appears that way!). The vast majority of people — including those who aren’t in recovery — spend a lifetime working to build up the skills over time. 

And these are critically important capabilities to have. Cultivating these skills is:

  • Necessary to handle real-life situations
  • A part of the recovery process
  • Can facilitate moving forward in your new, healthier life
  • Can up your chances of success

How To Say No To Alcohol & Drugs

Below are some of our favorite ways people — like you — have found their “just say no” voice. 

As you read each strategy, assess how you feel about it and see if you can imagine doing it yourself. How would you personalize it to fit your life? Consider writing this down, to help fix it in your memory. (Tip: You’re significantly more likely to achieve a goal if you jot it down!)

We recommend trying multiple approaches to see what works best for you. If one thing doesn’t quite do it for you, move on to a different technique. And, don’t be afraid to improvise as needed — creativity can be a great tool to have in your staying-sober kit.

Practice Saying No

You don’t walk into a gym one day and instantly lift the biggest barbell there. You have to dedicate yourself to a routine of showing up and gradually increasing the amount of weight you can press.

It’s the same thing with saying no to drugs and alcohol. You might start out having a hard time saying it. It could come out weakly and inelegantly. But, with repetition, it’ll start coming out strong.

You can try out a variety of ways to articulate the message — No! — in front of a mirror, with your family and friends, in a support group. You can even record yourself and watch the playback, make adjustments, and repeat.

Think Prevention

We’re not suggesting that you retreat from life here. Avoidance isn’t a healthful long-term strategy. Instead, we’re offering up the concept of thinking ahead and not delivering yourself into, particularly harmful scenarios. Educating yourself on the impacts of drug or alcohol use also dovetails nicely into this.

For example, if you know (or even just suspect) that the party you’re invited to is going to be rife with drugs and alcohol — don’t go. Or, if you’re at a gathering where there’s alcohol, fill your cup with something else (water, juice, soda) before the booze makes its way to you. Prevention in this context is more about not consciously putting yourself into dangerous and tempting circumstances.

Prepare Alternatives

Sometimes, you don’t know you’ve walked into a hornet’s nest until you’re in the middle of it. You need to be ready to triumph over these surprises and uncertainties. A little time and effort spent on advanced preparation might do the trick.

The idea with this technique is to have your Plan B (and C and D) laid out. This could mean you have another activity you can suggest if the gang’s original itinerary is a bar hop. It could mean that you have an exit strategy in place for when being in the throes of that concert crowd becomes too much to handle.

By giving yourself this wiggle room, you’re giving yourself options. You’re putting power back into your hands!

Peer Support

Never underestimate the value of your family, friends, support group members, and healthcare team! They love and care about you, possibly more than you realize. Most probably, they want to support you as much as they can. They want you to succeed and find a place of wellness.

Take advantage of this. Lean on your people when you feel like you could use that extra bit of “external confidence boost.”

This isn’t to say that you should let them act on your behalf. To the contrary, actually. You need to maintain agency over yourself, but your network may be able to facilitate you saying no to drugs and alcohol. They can show solidarity by rejecting substances as well. They can lend an ear or a shoulder when you want to talk or cry.

Keep Busy

Chances are, if you keep yourself occupied, you won’t have time to be preoccupied with drugs and alcohol. When substances are less central to your life, they might release some of their hold on you. This can make it easier to say no and may reduce your encounters with them in the first place.

Recall Your “Why”

When confronted with drugs or alcohol, taking a beat to remember why you’re in recovery can be incredibly powerful. Hit the pause button by taking a deep breath before responding. During that moment, visualize all reasons why you’re seeking sobriety.

Maybe it’s your personal physical and mental well-being, maybe it’s your child who looks up to you, maybe it’s the career or lifestyle you’re working so diligently to attain. It could be any or all of these things, or something else entirely.

Staying focused can be clarifying and help you prioritize what matters most to you and why they’re worth saying no to alcohol and drugs for.


Making up excuses as to why you “can’t” accept the drugs or alcohol that are being shoved in your face is completely legitimate. These are small white lies that are in your true best interest. These are not giant lies intended to deceive everyone, yourself included, for unsavory or unhealthful purposes.

The key is to make it believable yet as vague as possible. Here is some we’ve heard used and that might be a good jumping-off point for you:

  • I can’t — my parents would kill me.
  • No thanks. I have to drive home in a little while.
  • I can’t; I’m on antibiotics.
  • Sorry, I’ve got an early day/exam/track meet/etc. ahead of me.
  • No, I’m good. I’m meeting up with my family later.

OTR Can Help Make Saying No Easier

As you can see, there are lots of ways to say no to drugs and alcohol. All take some practice before they’ll be second nature to you. In time, hopefully, you’ll see that these strategies both minimize your encounters with harmful substances but also make it much easier to reject them.

Fortunately, you don’t have to go through recovery alone. Oregon Trail Recovery is here to assist you as you go through your recovery process. We have a full menu of addiction-related services and programs to help you get and stay clean. Reach out today to see how our team can support your path to wellness.