A common question for newly sober people to wonder about is if they are allowed to drink low alcohol or non-alcoholic beers. This is a hotly debated question. On the surface it may seem reasonable that the individual uses these beverages – after all it is unlikely to send them on a drunken rampage. Despite its apparent harmlessness though, there are some good reasons why people in recovery should avoid these beverages. There are also enough alternatives to make consumption of non alcoholic beers in recovery be unnecessary.
Low alcohol beers are usually less than 0.5% alcohol by volume (ABV) in the United States. This means that an individual would need to drink 9 of these non alcoholic drinks to equal just one standard beer. The fact that it is almost impossible to get inebriated by drinking these beers means that they can be legally sold to minors. These are also referred to as non alcoholic beers (NA).
In places like the United Kingdom the term low alcohol beer is used differently. They use this term to refer to anything less than 1.2% ABV – so it would be technically be possible for a determined individual to reach the early stages of inebriation with this beverage. In the UK they classify anything less than 0.5% ABV as being a non alcoholic beer_. The majority of these low alcohol beers are lagers, but it is also possible to find low alcohol ales as well, but these are not as popular.
These drinks can go be a number of names including:
* No alcohol beer
* Non alcoholic beer
* Near beer
* Small beer
* Small ale
* Low alcohol beer
* NA beer
* Pretend beer – colloquial term
Those people who are recovering from an addiction may feel that they have good justifications for drinking non alcoholic beers. The most common reasons they will give include:
* Even though people have entered recovery they can still like the taste of beer, and these beverages seem to offer a safe way of indulging this taste.
* The individual is less likely to feel out of place when they go into a bar.
* It avoids having to give reasons for not drinking. Other people will just assume that the individual is consuming an alcoholic beverage.
* Drinking soft drinks all the time can be a bit sickly. It may be easier to drink non alcoholic beers some of the time because they are not so sweet.
* Even though the beer in non alcoholic it may give the individual a bit of comfort because it reminds them of the real thing.
* These beverages can contain many calories – as much as 200 kcal in a small bottle. If the individual is drinking them too regularly it may lead to obesity.
* The individual may experience placebo effects from the beer, and they can become convinced that they are drinking the real thing.
If people are recovering from an alcohol addiction there are some definite dangers associated with non alcoholic or low alcoholic beers because:
* Some of these low alcohol beers actually have a significant amount of alcohol inside them – particularly outside of the US. The individual may begin to feel the effects of inebriation if they consume a few bottles of these beers.
* The individual may imagine that they are getting an effect from these beers. This may then give them a justification to relapse.
* If people consume more than a couple of these beers they can feel bloated and nauseated.
* The individual may get pleasure out of pretending that they are drinking the real thing. This is called romancing the drink and it can pave the way to a relapse back to addiction.
* Drinking these beers may be evidence that the individual remains ambivalent about their recovery. The fact that they are trying to recapture aspects of the bad old days may mean that they have not completely closed the book on that part of their life.
* Some would say that it is inappropriate to drink these beverages in recovery because it is too similar to old behaviors. Sobriety is all about a completely new start away from the old way of doing things.
* If the individual is drinking a low alcoholic beer in public it would be easy for them to mistakenly pick up a friend’s regular beer. This type of thing does happen, and it can be upsetting for the individual who is in recovery.
Romancing the drink refers to a situation where the person in recovery begins to remember the times when alcohol appeared to be working for them. Time heals all wounds and eventually people can forget how bad things were at the end of their addiction. Instead they may think about sunny days drinking a nice cool beer and feeling good. In many instances these memories will have no real bearing on reality – for example, on those glorious summer days the individual may forget how they were suffering from a bad hangover and needed that beer to steady their shakes. If the individual is drinking a low alcoholic beer in an attempt to recapture something of their glory days then this would be considered romancing the drink. It is dangerous game to play because it will usually be a stepping stone to a relapse. If people are determined to build a good life away from addiction there should be no need for pretend beers.
The decision to drink non alcoholic beers in recovery is a personal one. There are definite dangers to doing so. It is therefore important that the individual carefully considers the reasons for wanting these beers. Some people in recovery may be able to enjoy these beverages without any negative consequences – it depends on their motivations for doing so. Other people would suggest that it just isn’t worth the risk, and this would particularly apply to those who are in early recovery.
There are good alternatives to non alcoholic beers including:
* If the individual is in a social situation they may begin to feel ill if they drink too many soft drinks. This is why it is a good idea to add some non-carbonated drinks.
* One mistake that people make is that they try to drink soft drinks as if they were consuming beers. There is no need to drink these beverages fast – it is perfectly fine to just order one soda and then spend the night sipping on it.
* If people don’t like the taste of plain water they can add a tiny bit of fruit juice. When people water fruit juice down it is possible to drink it all night and not suffer from any ill effects.
* It is a good idea to experiment with non alcoholic cocktails. It is possible to keep on inventing unique tastes that will ensure that the individual never suffers from boredom.
* There are some good reasons for not going to bars in recovery or anywhere else where there is going to be a focus on consumption of alcohol. In Alcoholics Anonymous they like to say that, if you sit in a barbers shop long enough you will eventually get your hair cut.
* The individual needs to break out of the habit of always needing a glass in their hands. There is no benefit to be had from drinking excessive amounts of fluids – it just means going to the toilet more often.