Updated: Nov 9, 2020
To drink mocktails or not to drink mocktails seems to be a growing question in the sober community these days. I have witnessed some sincerely heated discussions regarding this topic and it always leaves me feeling confused. Do I understand the two sides of the discussion? Sure. Do I believe the topic is worthy of such heated debate? Not really. I am from the belief we are all very different creatures, and we all approach trials and tribulations slightly differently. The reason I believe this to be true is that we all come from different backgrounds. We all have different experiences we bring to the table. We all have different skills to draw from when struggling with a dilemma such as addiction recovery. There is no one program that works for everyone. There is no one belief system. There is only each individual person and their own personal journey. Mine included mocktails and non-alcoholic drinks. Yours may not.
Before I talk about my specific story in regard to whether or not mocktails are beneficial in the sober conversation, I want to talk a little bit about the idea of habitual behavior. We are all creatures of habit on some level. There are things we do every day that may be considered outside the norm. There are behaviors we engage in, in times of stress. There are routines we follow to keep us on track. Habitual living is what keeps most of us sane in a world full of chaos and uncertainty. Without our routines and habits, we would feel a little lost. Think about a time when your daily routine was derailed for some unforeseen reason. It could be your car breaking down, a family emergency, or even a snow day. For whatever reason, your day was redirected. How well did you react to the change? I for one have found myself completely off balance when my daily routine was thwarted. I feel a little lost, a little unsure of what to do, a little confused. Is it a big deal? No, but it is noticeable and always takes me some time to get myself back on track.
If something as simple as a change in our daily plan can make us feel off-balance, what do we think a change in our physical and emotional body is going to do? Quitting drinking is not only behavioral, it is also chemical and physical. There is a lot going on in the first few days of sobriety. For some, the first few days can be excruciatingly difficult on a physical and emotional level. Thankfully, the physical component is short-lived. Alcohol leaves the system rather quickly, once you stop drinking. With 72 hours, your body should be free from alcohol and therefore most physical withdrawals cease. In extreme cases, withdrawals can last up to a month. Either way, in the grand scheme of things, a month is a relatively short period of time. Unfortunately, the emotional component is not so short-lived. This is where the individual person comes into play. It is up to us how long our emotional attachment to alcohol lasts. As I have written about before, if we believe we still like it or miss it, we will mourn the loss of alcohol, and the loss may never truly disappear from our lives. Some programs survive on this model.
I feel incredibly lucky to have begun my sobriety without the preconceived notions of alcoholism and addiction lasting forever. I originally stepped onto my sober path with very little expectations about duration and struggle. It was only after I found my own way that I began to hear the stories of lifelong addiction and recovery. It was this disparity in experiences that motivated me to remain active in the sober community. I could not stand by knowing my experience was so much easier than others and not want to try to help. While my first steps into sobriety were different from many others, I still believe people can experience easier sobriety even with those preconceived notions.
As I stated earlier, small changes in our routines have the power to throw us off balance in our daily lives. With that said, major changes in our routines have the power to flip us upside down and make us feel completely unrecognizable. Quitting drinking, or any addiction for that matter certainly has that power too. As most of you know, I quit nicotine a couple of months before alcohol and the experience was nothing short of an emotional roller coaster. I was miserable, grumpy, and downright agitated. I was not myself. I tried gum, but mostly I just ate a lot of junk food. It was the only thing that offered me a reward even remotely similar to the perceived reward of using nicotine. It worked, but I gained twenty pounds in the process. This is not something I recommend but unfortunately, nicotine does not have the same nicotine-free options as there are for alcohol.
Needless to say, when I quit drinking I knew I had to find a way to work through the feelings associated with the change in my drinking routine. My partner and I quit at the same time so we immediately looked into the alcohol-free options available to us. In the beginning, we stayed pretty simple. We drank soda water with cranberry or grapefruit. My wife drank kombucha, but that did not work for me. I played around with some mixed drink ideas with lemon and lime juice, muddled berries, etc... This worked pretty well, but I was open to more.
The first league bowling night I went to after quitting drinking was something I was nervous to experience. I knew there was such a thing as non-alcoholic beer but always thought it was kind of silly. I mean, why would I drink something that tasted like alcohol without alcohol? Everyone drank at the bowling alley, and I was not ready to be questioned about my not drinking, yet. I ordered an O'doul's non-alcohol beer. It allowed me to blend in and not feel pressured to share about my journey. The non-alcoholic beer itself was okay, but it definitely was not something I would look forward to. Nevertheless, it helped me get through the evening.
Finding a perfect alternative
Even without a great alternative, my partner and I were both doing really well in our sobriety. We missed having our thing to drink at night while watching television or sharing a happy hour together. It wasn't that big of a deal, but it was a deal. I still occasionally drank non-alcoholic beer even though I never really enjoyed it. On a whim, I decided to look up other non-alcoholic beer options and found an alcohol-free IPA. I was shocked. I had no idea there was such a thing as craft non-alcoholic beer. I ordered a case from Athletic Brewing Company. I honestly did not have much in the way of expectations, but I was hopeful. When it arrived, I gave it a try and found it to be wonderful. Since finding this option, I have allowed myself to enjoy it whenever I want and it has become something I look forward to. My partner found dealcoholized wine and champagne and is equally as happy with her new alternative to alcohol. We enjoy happy hours together, and we have not missed alcohol since.
Later we found a product called Sexy AF Spirits. I am plugging them here because I really like the people involved with this positive sober supportive company. I am hosting a video interview with Jo-Anne from Sexy AF Spirits on Wednesday and I will share the video via my website this week. Their product is really fun because it works more like spirits, hence the name. You can mix the different flavors in innumerable ways to create tasty and fun drinks served however you like. I personally like to make martini-style drinks, as you can see in the picture above. This product is definitely worth a look if you are interested in mocktails and alcohol-free options.
Here is the thing. There are people out there who say drinking mocktails or non-alcoholic beer and wine is incredibly risky. They say it is a continuous trigger and will eventually lead back to alcohol. I can concede this may be true for some people, but I have not experienced anything remotely close to this and neither has my partner. We both feel strongly about our conviction to remain alcohol-free. We have never found our non-alcoholic options to be a trigger, in fact, they are generally the complete opposite. If ever we were struggling with cravings from a bad day or stressful situation, we never knew it because we had an alternative behavior and drink that kept us on track and feeling incredibly strong in our sobriety. I cannot stress this enough. We have never felt a craving or desire to drink since allowing ourselves to drink non-alcoholic beverages.
Another argument against drinking non-alcoholic beverages is the fact some of them do have a small percentage of alcohol in them. The most I have seen is .5% and they still label it as non-alcoholic. If this is shocking to you, allow me to shock you even further. Whether you drink non-alcoholic beverages or not, you are more than likely consuming alcohol from other foods and drinks as well. Some breads, yogurt, and juices contain alcohol. Kombucha contains up to .5% alcohol. Alcohol can be found in soy sauce and ripe bananas too. If the small percentage of alcohol in non-alcoholic beverages worries you, keep in mind the above everyday foods and drinks that contain it as well. It was not a deal-breaker for me.
It is a choice. It is something you have to decide for yourself whether or not you think it will work for you. I am certainly not telling you to drink mocktails or NA beer and wine. I am simply sharing my experience and how my experience has helped me remain successfully alcohol-free. I find I do better when I feel I have choices. Tell me I can't do something and I immediately lean towards doing it. Having options makes me feel less limited and freer. It makes me feel better about the already great decision I have made to quit drinking. Having options reinvigorate and solidify my positive and healthy choices. Having options have effectively made my sobriety easy.
Have an open mind and keep yourself open to the options available to you, you never know what is going to be the thing that makes your sobriety easy, too.