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Does Non-Alcoholic Beer Count?
To answer that, it's important to understand what non-alcoholic drinks are, because for starters, alcohol-free beer (such as O'Doul's) contains alcohol.
Alcohol-free beer is alcoholic?
To be marketed as "alcohol-free" beer, the product needs to contain less than 0.5% alcohol. This means that it'd take about 10 bottles of non-alcoholic beer to equal 1 normal beer. It's highly unlikely for a person to become drunk from drinking non-alcoholic beer, but it does still contains alcohol.
Is it acceptable to drink non-alcoholic beer in recovery?
Most people would say, “No.” In recovery, you recognize you have an addiction and acknowledge the triggers you need to remove to remain sober. Sobriety is living alcohol-free in literal terms, and not the fine-printed “alcohol-free" on non-alcoholic beverages. To be clean and sober means abstinence from the substance. In the same way a vegetarian wouldn't eat a bowl of soup made with chicken stock, an alcoholic shouldn’t go to a wine-tasting even if they spit it out after. Opioid addicts know this all too well and often refuse pain killers when they find themselves hospitalized to avoid going down that road again.
People suffering from alcohol use disorder know every day is a struggle, so to drink alcohol-free beer is playing with fire. For many in recovery, staying sober is like walking on a tightrope every day. For those drinking non-alcoholic beer, they’ve riding a unicycle onto the line.
Will I be a pariah in the sober community if I drink alcohol-free beer?
No. The sober community is a safe one. Everyone has regrets and tragedies looming over them. Rarely do you feel judgement at an AA meeting. That’s part of staying sober, is having a strong support system. If you choose to drink non-alcoholic beer, there is a possibility you'll be labelled a "dry drunk,” but this doesn’t make you any less accepted. Many people have found their way to meetings when their last drink wasn’t more than 24 hours ago. That said, it’s unlikely that they’d accept your “sober birthday” so long as you’re drinking non-alcoholic beer. Again, this doesn’t make anyone a pariah; it's being on the right track, but not living a sober life.
Why is it so heavily frowned upon?
So much of staying sober is making sure you remove the opportunity to relapse. Drinking is widely accepted which makes social situations challenging – especially if you’re not telling anyone yet. So while you can’t live as a recluse, when it comes to areas in your life that you can control, you should.
One of the first things people in recovery do is eliminate environments and even people that would be triggers. For some people this means moving out of their neighborhood and for others this means moving out of state. It means dropping friends who you once happily referred to as “drinking buddies.” When you make the allowance for yourself to drink non-alcoholic beer, it’s all too easy to maintain the same routine that led you to recognizing you had a problem in the first place. For most alcoholics, it’s a slippery slope because the temptation continues to be there.
Addiction is a diagnosed disorder because it’s a rewiring of the brain. Rewired to heavily favor impulsive, quick rewards. It can also lead to a sense of false confidence, “what can one drink hurt?” There have been addicts who relapsed due to the absurd amount of hand sanitizer they started drinking.
If you recognize you have a drinking problem, then the best thing you can do for yourself is cut alcohol out altogether.
Can I drink alcohol-free beer to gradually quit drinking?
In this scenario, what comes to mind are nicotine addicts. They may transition slowly, moving from a pack a day to two cigarettes a day. Eventually, moving down patches or gum. For alcohol, if you have a strong support system (family and friends) and you don’t want to go to rehab or AA but have found it too hard to quit cold turkey, then the main thing is to ask the question for yourself.
If you find that you need to drink non-alcoholic beer, then it sounds like the addiction is not being fully addressed by drinking alcohol-free beer.
One of the primary purposes of rehab is to address the underlying reason for drinking. For most people, it becomes an emotional crutch due to problems in their past. If those problems aren’t dealt with, they’re unlikely to go away. Even if you don’t want to attend meetings or rehab, consider therapy or investing time in your loved ones to talk through issues you may be struggling with. You deserve to be happy and all too often addiction pulls away from happiness. It can pull you away from loved ones.
Similarly, a famous man once said, “stopping isn’t hard, but not starting again is.” You can stop drinking altogether, but to get there you need to stop.
How to build new habits
I Am Sober is an app that helps you get some control back in your life.