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Non-alcoholic Beer & Wine; Friend or Foe?

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In my first year of sobriety there were so many new things to learn and test out and that first year for me was pivotal in building a strong foundation of recovery.  I did what I was told – I was a good little soldier.  I did 90 meetings in 90 days (more than that actually) and I got a sponsor and started working the 12 steps.  My life quickly got better and I was so relieved to be living a life of honesty and integrity.

I remember in my first month I was out to dinner with an old friend, and she knew I had recently quit drinking, but this was the first time I was out to dinner with someone that wasn’t in the program.  I felt weird, awkward and not comfortable at all, as she and I used to drink a lot together.  I ordered a non-alcoholic beer.  The thing is, it tasted like normal beer.  It was odd and I didn’t think I should drink it, but I drank the whole thing and something just didn’t feel right.  I didn’t tell my sponsor.  I didn’t tell anyone.  A few months later found me back home visiting my family for an engagement party and the same thing happened again.  Here is how that story goes:

He brought non-alcoholic red wine to the party and he knew I quit drinking also.  He poured some for himself and asked if I wanted to have a glass. I figured sure, why not, it can’t hurt, and I’ll feel more comfortable at the party with a wine glass in my hand. I was nervous taking a sip, and it tasted like cheap red wine.  I remembered that taste and I liked it, which made me leery about drinking it.  I remembered hearing about how people would relapse on non-alcoholic beer and wine and thinking that could happen to me.  I was concerned that I would pick up somebody else’s wine glass that looked like mine, and then it’d be all over.  I thought about just drinking then and saying screw it, I’ll get sober again when I get back to San Diego, this is just too difficult.  If I can drink this glass of non-alcoholic wine, why not just drink a normal glass? One glass won’t hurt. 

            I looked at Suzy and she asked, “How is it?  Is it weird?  Are you sure you should be drinking that?” 

            I thought for a minute and put it down and looked at her. “You know, I can’t drink this, it’s too slippery of a slope for me.  It’ll make me want to drink a real glass of wine.” 

Again, I was in a situation where I didn’t feel comfortable and I thought I needed that liquid courage to make me feel okay in a social situation.  Moments after this occurrence, I remembered a story my sponsor had told me where she had relapsed because she started drinking non-alcoholic wine.  If that wasn’t God working in my life at that moment – then I dunno what is.  I’m so grateful that story popped into my head and my girlfriend had the wherewithal to ask me how I was feeling.

I remembered I shared this story at a meeting soon after and a wise woman in recovery came up to me afterwards and said, “I’m not going to tell you what to do, but drinking anything non-alcoholic is like a junkie putting a needle in his arm using water as his drug” .  It’s kind of like the AA adage, “You walk into a Barber shop one too many times, you’ll end up getting a haircut.”  Yup, I get it – no need to test this out anymore.

In my time in sobriety, and in speaking with other people in recovery, I have found that alcoholics unanimously recommend staying away from non-alcoholic beer and wine stating that it will trigger cravings and induce relapses. I can completely agree with that statement.  I don’t know why I didn’t start drinking after those two occurrences, because both tasted like booze.  For me, I had to play that tape in my head.  I had to go back and remember what would occur if I started drinking again.  Inevitably it would start out okay at a nice ritzy bar or restaurant, but fast forward a few hours into the night and I’m at the local watering hole looking to score drugs and find others that will partake with my lifestyle.  Why I do know this scenario? Because this was my life for over 20 years.  I know it well.

So for me today, I relish in going out to restaurants and looking at the Non-Alcoholic Beverage Menu.  I love ordering a fruity Lemonade, a fizzy flavored water or just a plain Iced Tea.  Because for this Alcoholic, no fake booze drink is going to take away the amazing life I have today in recovery.  It’s not worth it as being sober is worth so much more.


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  2. It’s funny how non-alcoholic beverages work. Myself, I tried out that brand “Fre,” for a white wine substitute. Like you said, it almost seemed to be too much. It was so similar to the taste of white wine, I thought I’d accidentally bought a “real” bottle of wine. I don’t know if I’ll be trying it again.

    Actually, I guess I have my own personal approach to drinking non-alcoholic beverages. I just think of it as my own fun drink when I drink things like ginger ale with a squeeze of lemon, or sparkling water.

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