Opportunities to drink and use drugs can increase over the summer, since there’s more free time to chill and less structure to your days.
Whether you’re at a party or hanging out in a small group, “Just saying no” to drugs or alcohol is a lot easier said than done. It’s especially hard if the peeps you’re with are your friends — or you’re looking to make some new ones. Worse still is if the person you like is the one cracking open the bottle or lighting up the joint and handing it directly to you. “Saying no isn’t easy in these situations — it can be really tricky,” says Psychotherapist Emily Roberts. “But remember, you’re the one that has to live with the consequences.”
Believe it or not, it is possible to pass whatever’s being handed to you right on to the next person without being labeled as a party pooper.
Here’s how it’s done.
1. Blame your parents
The good old “my parents will kill me” excuse is always a good one — but you can always make it more specific.
“I’m seeing more and more parents buying breathalyzer tests online, and drug testing kits too,” says Lynn R. Zakeri, LCSW. “This is so common nowadays that it’s definitely a believable excuse.”
True story: you can get a personal breathalyzer for as little as $30 on Amazon, and your parents have spent far more on far lesser things. Do not underestimate them, and feel free to use this one a solid reason for passing on the Bacardi.
Or, try something like this on for size:
“I would, but my mom can be really strict and I don’t want to piss her off before she buys me those Shawn Mendes tickets.”
Dr. Kimberly Williams says her patients found that one to be tried-and-true — just make sure you switch it out for a scenario that’s realistic in your world.
You can also say you promised your parents you’d study when you got home, and studying and drinking really don’t mix.
2. Keep yourself busy
Someone sitting in the corner or acting like a wallflower is more likely to fall victim to peer pressure — we know peer pressure sounds corny, but it’s a very real thing — as opposed to a person who is already enjoying themselves.
“Nobody will be looking in your direction as an easy target or someone that needs a ‘lift’ to have fun,” says psychotherapist Alyson Cohen.
If you look like you are enjoying yourself at the party and having a good time, it’s less likely that you’ll get pressured.
“Listen to music, dance, sing, tell jokes, engage in conversation and laugh with friends, and then, when someone offers you a drink or drug, you can simply say, ‘No thanks, I’m good already.'”
Letting people see that you’re already having fun without any “help” will naturally fend off any unwanted “offers.”
3. Put something else in your cup
People are usually less concerned with what you’re drinking than what they’re drinking.
If you have a red solo cup full of seltzer, perfect. If you know there won’t be seltzer there, just bring a water bottle and pour its contents — water, not vodka — into your cup when nobody’s looking.
Having something to hold and sip will make you feel less awkward and empty-handed, and people will be less inclined to ask, “Why aren’t you drinking?”
4. Tell a little white lie
If someone does ask directly and won’t let up, try telling them that you’re on an antibiotic that doesn’t mix well with alcohol. Naturally, this is to be used sparingly, lest people think you’ve always got some sort of infection.
“It’s also fair to say that you’ve tried whatever it is before, and don’t like it,” Zakeri adds. “There’s a difference between telling a friend the truth as opposed to telling a casual partygoer a little white lie.”
If you’re feeling especially sex-positive, Dr. Williams says this line never fails, “No thanks, I’m hooking up [with someone] later, and I want to remember all of it.”
If whoever is giving you the third degree keeps digging, feel free to excuse yourself or change the subject.
5. Let loose!
Laugh louder, be bolder, flirt harder. There’s no reason you need alcohol to lose your inhibition.
You may surprise yourself at just how confident you are without having to reach for anything to make you feel that way.
“Some of the girls I see say that they just as much fun giggling all night and pretending to be drunk. They stagger around, tell silly jokes, take goofy pictures and still have a great time,” says Dr. Williams.
Ideally, everyone around you will be too busy enjoying your fun company to worry about whether or not you’re actually “so drunk right now.”
6. Remember, it’s all about the delivery
If you say, “I’m not really into that, but feel free to go for it,” as Zakeri suggests, you’re letting people know that while it’s not your jam, you’re respecting their choices, and expect the same in return.
A simple “no thanks,” can also sometimes do the trick, because being honest can feel empowering. The key is to not come across like you’re judging them for drinking or using drugs because you don’t want to.
Also, eliminate one word from the equation.
“Saying that you’re ‘sorry’ for being yourself gives the impression that you’re insecure. It also makes others think that you’re not totally sure about your decision, and invites them to keep pushing,” says Roberts, who is also the author of Express Yourself: A Teen Girls Guide to Speaking Up and Being Who You Are.
“I remind girls that it’s so much more attractive and confident to be yourself without a drink or an excuse for not drinking.”
7. “Oh no, something bad happened!”
You might know that classic scene from Sex and the City when Charlotte has Carrie call her and tell her “something bad has happened” to get here out of a bad date.
Here’s the real-life scenario: your crew is upping the passive aggressive pressure to partake, and it seems like your only option is to give in. You want to keep your friends, and you kind of feel cornered in.
For this one, plan ahead: Roberts says that downloading an app like “Gotta Go” (thanks, Chelsea Handler!) could help you get out of awkward situations. Just make sure you don’t tell all your friends about the app.
Written by Helaina Hovitz/Teen vogue