Jun 20, 2016 | By Kelly Fitzgerald

Non-Alcoholic Drinks – Are They Safe and How Often Can You Consume Them?

Recovery Relapse Prevention

Non-Alcoholic Drinks - A Safe Alternative to Booze

In sobriety, you might start to look for your new drink of choice. For some, it could be water, coffee, soda, or the ever popular sparkling water option. Whatever it is, it’s not uncommon for us to look for a non-alcoholic drink that we can hold in our hands in social situations, or drink after a long day at work. Just like vegetarians who don’t eat meat and indulge in fake meat products or a meal made to look like meat, those of who don’t drink are often faced with the option of non-alcoholic drinks that are similar to alcohol, sans the booze. It’s a personal decision on whether or not these drinks are for you, but here is the information you need to make the best choice for you.

What Are Non-Alcoholic Drinks?

Non-alcoholic drinks contain very little, or no alcohol, and are sometimes meant to portray normal alcoholic drinks. They are often used as a substitute for people who do not want to drink, or are sober. They exist for people who want the flavor of beer or a cocktail without the accompanying danger of alcohol, a buzz, or a hangover. For people in the recovery community, these drinks can be beneficial, but some may be triggering.

Non-alcoholic drinks can be low alcohol or alcohol-free. By law, low alcohol drinks (also labeled as non-alcoholic) must contain less than 0.5 percent alcohol by volume. The chances of becoming drunk off of low alcohol drinks are slim to none. To even reach the amount of alcohol in one normal beer, you’d have to drink a number of NA beers. Low alcohol beverages are sold to minors in a number of states in the United States. Examples of low alcohol drinks include beer like O’Doul’s, St. Pauli NA, and Beck’s NA. There are also a variety of low alcohol wines. Additionally, there is kombucha, a fermented sweet tea with a culture of yeast and bacteria. While kombucha is required to have less than 0.5 percent alcohol level to be sold in certain grocery stores, some types are made with between 0.5 percent and 1.0 percent. Kombucha is marketed as a healthy drink that’s beneficial to stomach bacteria. It’s taste may be triggering to recovering alcoholics.

Alcohol-free drinks contain zero alcohol. These are the preferred non-alcoholic drinks by most people who abstain from alcohol including pregnant women, designated drivers, and people in recovery. Common alcohol-free drinks include mocktails, cocktails sans alcohol. Anything from a mimosa, to a mojito, can be made without the alcohol. Additionally, ginger beer is a naturally sweetened and carbonated, alcohol-free beverage. It’s made by the natural fermentation of prepared ginger spice, yeast, and sugar.

Pros of Non-Alcoholic Drinks

Non-alcoholic drinks can be beneficial to those in the recovery community.

  • Non-alcoholic drinks are a great substitute for alcoholic drinks in a social setting or at home.
  • They make you feel included in a setting that includes alcohol.
  • You can indulge in the flavors of cocktails and beer, but not become intoxicated, addicted, or hungover.
  • They are healthier options to alcoholic drinks.

Cons of Non-Alcoholic Drinks

There are some drawbacks to non-alcoholic beverages. They are sometimes criticized by the recovery community, especially in 12 step fellowships. Indulging in them can be frowned upon.

  • Drinking non-alcoholic drinks can romanticize alcohol, meaning it can remind you of how it was during your drinking days.
  • Some people believe you aren’t technically abstaining from alcohol if it is considered low alcohol, or less the 0.5 percent.
  • It can be a slippery slope. Drinking non-alcoholic drinks in a manner like alcoholic ones (binge drinking, shots etc.) can be identical to problematic drinking.
  • Non-alcoholic beverages can be triggering. The taste can provide a placebo effect, making you feel drunk, or even encouraging you to go back to classic alcoholic drinks.
  • If you feel triggered by non-alcoholic beverages they could lead to a relapse.

The Choice Is Yours

Ultimately, everyone feels different about non-alcoholic drinks, whether they contain traces of alcohol or not. You will find that you’ll have different triggers in recovery, some may be certain non-alcoholic drinks and some may not. Personally, I don’t mind having alcohol free mocktails and an occasional NA beer because I do not feel triggered by it and it doesn’t make me want to drink real alcohol. However, there are certain flavors of sparkling water that do trigger me, cranberry and apple to be exact. Each person needs to find what works for them.

If you are strong in your recovery, working a program (whatever that looks like for you), and determined that sobriety is the way of life you want, non-alcoholic beverages shouldn’t be a threat to you. The safety and consumption of non-alcoholic drinks all depend on what recovery looks like to you and what you are comfortable with.

Don’t read too much into non-alcoholic drinks, I know it can be overwhelming, especially if you’re new to recovery. If they make you feel icky or uncomfortable it’s best to avoid them. I believe non-alcoholic drinks were made as a viable option for those of us in recovery. Personally, I am glad I gave them a shot and will continue to drink them as long as I feel comfortable. But remember, the choice is always yours.

7 responses to “Non-Alcoholic Drinks – Are They Safe and How Often Can You Consume Them?

  • As an alcoholic, the AA Big Book tells me that I have an allergic reaction to alcohol. If I take any alcohol at all into my body, it produces a craving for more. Even though non-alcoholic beer and wine, kombucha and even water kefir have very low levels of alcohol, I chose to abstain and recommend other’s abstain as well. Alcoholism is a progressive and fatal disease. Why risk awakening the cravings by drinking fake beer?

    • I agree, why trigger the monster that lives inside sober alcoholics… I’ve have been sober a long long time, never touched one of those so called non alcohol drinks, because reality is they do have a small percent of alcohol in them, no matter how you want to slice & dice there is alcohol in those drinks. My sobriety is too important to me to play around and trigger a relapse ..

    • There are all sorts of things you eat/drink that have alcohol in them. Orange juice has more alcohol than N/A beer. So does a slice of rye bread — or anything with yeast, for that matter. Do you have salad dressing? Vinegar contains alcohol. Vanilla extract is pure alcohol, so cut out cake, cookies, and the like.

      Not sure anyone is truly allergic to alcohol. You just have a hard time stopping once you start.

  • I make nohitos with limeade, mint, soda and ice. It is delicious and refreshing. I discovered when I was newly sober that it was good to spoil myself with something special so I didn’t feel left out. Why should rum own the nohito? JK Also I never drank mohitos so it is not a trigger for me.

  • Tara Nickerson

    8 years ago

    I drink a healthy concoction of sparkling water, ginger and a splash of apple cider vinegar every evening – out of a wine glass. if I have company, I may have 2 or 3 while they drink alcoholic beverages. It works for me. Makes me feel like I’ve had something “nice” to drink instead of my old go-to, which was wine.

  • I delight in, cause I discovered exactly what I used to be
    looking for. You’ve ended my 4 day long hunt! God Bless you
    man. Have a nice day. Bye

  • Interesting aritcle- I greatly appreciated it. I’ve been sober since 2000-over 16 years. I still go to meetings, and I drink NA. In the appendix of the Big Book- spiritual awakening- there is a quote from Herbert Spenser: “Contmpt prior to investigation.” In the Big Book, we are also told no one has a monopoly of God. We- through our conscious contact with God- should make decisions for our lives. I appreciate the opinions of others, but they are just that: opinions.

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