Is Non-Alcoholic Beer Safe for Recovering Alcoholics?

Traditionally, non-alcoholic beer had quite a stigma around it. These days, however, with the advent of various activities such as “Sobertober” and “Dry January”, drinking non-alcoholic beer has gained quite a bit of popularity. This is further evidenced by increased sales of non-alcoholic beverages (non-alcoholic beer sales increased by almost 40% in 2020 alone). While these beverages might be a great alternative to both soft drinks and normal beer, they do present a problem for recovering alcoholics. According to almost every alcohol rehab Pennsylvania has, former alcoholics should avoid even non-alcoholic beverages. Even so, many people still ask the question “Is non-alcoholic beer safe for recovering alcoholics?”. In this article, we are going to answer that question fully and explain exactly why recovering alcoholics should stay away from “non-alcoholic” beer.

What does “Non-Alcoholic” beer actually mean?

When we hear “non-alcoholic”, the first thought that comes to mind is that the drink does not contain any alcohol whatsoever. Unfortunately, that is usually not the case. For a drink to be considered non-alcoholic, it simply needs to have a lower alcohol percentage. According to federal law, a drink can be considered non-alcoholic if it contains less than 0.5% ABV (Alcohol By Volume). What this actually means is that most non-alcoholic drinks actually contain alcohol in them.

person considering is non-alcoholic beer safe for recovering alcoholics
According to the law, a non-alcoholic drink can’t have more than 0.499% ABV.

Non-alcoholic beer, due to its brewing process that involves fermenting grains, simply cannot be made without any alcohol. This is why many drug and alcohol treatment centers in Pennsylvania treat non-alcoholic beer the same as normal beer. You see, alcohol forms naturally during the brewing process. However, that process can be influenced by certain techniques to get a lower (or higher) alcohol percentage. That is why we have a huge number of different non-alcoholic beers, each one with its own ABV percentage. Here are some of the most common “non-alcohol” beer varieties on today’s market, alongside their ABV:

  • “Alcohol-free” beer – This beer type contains the least amount of alcohol in it. The maximum ABV for alcohol-free beer is 0.05%
  • Low-alcohol beer – Most similar to regular beer, low-alcohol beer can have up to 1.2% ABV
  • De-alcoholized beer – Somewhere in the middle, this type of beer can have a maximum of 0.5% ABV

To put these numbers into perspective, normal beer contains at least 1.2% ABV. Of course, many normal beers contain much more than that.

Why do people drink non-alcoholic beer?

Non-alcoholic beers are a great option for people who simply do not want to drink copious amounts of alcohol but still have the feeling that they are drinking alcohol. This can happen due to a variety of reasons, including cultural reasons, religious reasons, or personal reasons. A person might simply want to cut down on alcohol consumption, as well.

Furthermore, some people simply like the taste of beer but they don’t want to deal with any of the problems that alcohol may cause. Furthermore, by drinking non-alcoholic beer, a person can avoid feeling out of place at a bar. Some people simply want to socialize, after all, but drinking beer is a huge part of the bar culture. By drinking non-alcoholic beer, they can avoid having to seek one of the substance abuse treatment Pennsylvania solutions, as they are far less likely to develop an addiction. While an addiction to non-alcoholic beer is possible in some extreme fringe cases, it is far from likely. What is more likely, however, is that person transitions from non-alcoholic beer to alcoholic beer.

people clinking beer glasses at a bar without thinking whether is non-alcoholic beer safe for recovering alcoholics
Some people simply want to enjoy the “bar experience”.

For people in alcohol recovery, non-alcoholic beer can offer a way to cope with their newfound sobriety. The fact that you simply cannot get addicted to non-alcoholic beer means that you can have the best of both worlds, right? Unfortunately, that is simply not the case, as drinking non-alcoholic beer still has some risks associated with it.

Is non-alcoholic beer safe for recovering alcoholics?

The answer to this question is a bit more complicated than simple “Yes” or “No”. If we were to look at the intoxication potential alone, then yes, non-alcoholic beer is safe for recovering alcoholics. Non-alcoholic beer has an extremely low alcohol amount that it is practically impossible to get drunk on it. In other words, you simply cannot drink the amount of non-alcoholic beer that would take to get you drunk, your body will not allow it. Don’t try to experiment with this, either, as someone has already done it and proved that you can’t get drunk on non-alcoholic beer. However, there are other factors at play than intoxication potential alone.

Dangers and risks of drinking non-alcoholic beer

First of all, it is important to understand that each person has their own recovery path. At our alcohol rehab Allentown PA center, we personalize each and every client’s recovery plan to include the best solution for them. This may mean that drinking non-alcoholic beer is a part of the plan but it can also mean that avoiding any sort of beer, non-alcoholic or otherwise, is the best approach to take. With this in mind, there are three distinct dangers of drinking non-alcoholic beer for recovering alcoholics:

  • Non-alcoholic beer actually contains alcohol
  • It can look, smell, and taste the same as normal beer
  • It is rather easy to transition from non-alcoholic beer to normal beer

Many people in recovery also report that drinking even non-alcoholic beer leads to anxiety and fear of relapse. Needless to say, if you have any qualms about drinking anything with the word “beer” in it, it is always best to refrain from doing so. That being said, let’s explore the abovementioned dangers in a bit more detail.

wooden blocks spelling the word "anxiety"
Some people in recovery may succumb to anxiety after drinking non-alcoholic beer.

Non-alcoholic beer actually contains alcohol

As mentioned previously, non-alcoholic beer is still technically an alcoholic drink, as it does contain traces of alcohol. While this might not be a problem in and of itself, the fact that you know, on some level, that you are drinking alcohol might lead you to give in to the temptation to drink a “proper” beer again. In our Alcohol rehab center Reading PA, we often have clients who state that non-alcoholic beer is to blame for their relapse. Therefore, if you want to maximize your chances of staying sober, you may want to avoid drinking even “non-alcoholic” beverages. However, there is a chance that you might benefit from drinking them, too. Recovery is an individual effort, after all, and every person is unique. What works (or doesn’t work) for someone else, might just very well work for you.

This is the primary reason why answering the question “Is non-alcoholic beer safe for recovering alcoholics?” is so difficult. There is no clear-cut answer that will satisfy everyone. It might be safe for you, and it might not be. The only way to figure that out is to talk with a medical professional who has experience with alcohol addiction.

It can look, smell, and taste the same as normal beer

The reason why many people drink non-alcoholic beer in bars is the fact that it looks, smells, and almost tastes the same as normal beer. Of course, if you are a former alcoholic, you will definitely know the difference. However, the fact that non-alcoholic beer is so similar to the “real deal” is quite dangerous in itself.

By drinking non-alcoholic beer, you will experience similar sensory experiences as with normal beer. Without the intoxication effect, of course. For some people, especially recovering alcoholics, this can be quite frustrating. Furthermore, even being near beer, non-alcoholic or otherwise, can trigger euphoric recall. Euphoric recall is basically a form of selective memory, where you might romanticize your former addiction and ignore all the negative effects. If this happens, relapse becomes much more likely and you might soon ask “Does Cigna cover alcohol rehab?”. However, there is a chance that this will not happen to you at all. This is why some experimentation might be prudent. If you start feeling strongly about drinking after taking a sip of non-alcoholic beer, it might be in your best intention to avoid drinking it entirely.

three beer glasses
On the outside, non-alcoholic beer is virtually indistinguishable from regular beer.

It is rather easy to transition from non-alcoholic beer to normal beer

The fact of the matter is that alcohol recovery is a day-to-day challenge. Most people will want to avoid situations that might drive them back to their old habits. By drinking non-alcoholic beer, you might find yourself hanging around the same people and repeating similar behaviors. While this might seem to be an easy way to manage your recovery, it is actually hindering your progress. By being in an environment that fostered your former alcohol addiction, you are putting yourself in a dangerous spot. Most former alcoholics relapse at some point, after all.

Furthermore, drinking non-alcoholic beer will only serve to fuel your urges or cravings, rather than suppress them. Again, this is highly individual and it might happen that non-alcoholic beer is exactly what you need. However, the former is much more likely than the latter. Most people find that, after some time, they transition from non-alcoholic beer to normal beer and that they have to inquire about Aetna rehab coverage all over again. If you want to be 100% safe, you should avoid drinking any alcohol whatsoever. Instead, try to establish new hobbies, make new friendships, and adopt behaviors that do not involve drinking.

Since relapse is the greatest danger of drinking non-alcoholic beer, you might want to try and find ways to avoid relapse instead of asking “Is non-alcoholic beer safe for recovering alcoholics?”. Even if you relapse at some point, don’t worry, as it does not mean your recovery has failed. All it means is that you might need to increase your efforts in the future.

Alternatives to non-alcoholic beer

If your recovery depends on non-alcoholic beer, you may want to start replacing it with other beverages. You don’t need to immediately replace it altogether, either, feel free to start slowly. By doing so, you will slowly but surely avoid all of the dangers of non-alcoholic beer for recovering alcoholics. Here are some alternatives that you might want to try out:

  • Water (Always the best)
  • Unsweetened tea (sweetened if you have to)
  • Club soda
  • Fruit-infused water
a person thinking about whether is non-alcoholic beer safe for recovering alcoholics
You may want to consider alternatives to non-alcoholic beer.

Of course, the best thing to do is not to rely on any particular drink to help you stay sober. The best thing to do is to rely on the recovery tools and your own confidence. The only way to achieve long-lasting recovery is to feel comfortable in your own skin, without any drink whatsoever. That being said, being confident in certain social situations, especially during early recovery, can be quite difficult to manage without something to rely on. While non-alcoholic beer might seem the best for the job, you want to consider all of its dangers before you start drinking it.

Ideally, you will want to develop a completely new lifestyle. Trying to live the same life as you did when you first started drinking will usually lead to a relapse at some point. Non-alcoholic beer might sound great but it is ultimately a crutch. The only way to achieve long-term sobriety is to change the way you think and the things you do. This is not the easiest thing in the world, but you don’t have to go at it alone. There are many resources that you can take advantage of and there will always be people that can help you.

How to avoid relapse and what to do if you relapse

The best way to avoid relapse is to rely on your relapse prevention skills and to continue with your recovery program. One of the best ways to remain sober is to enroll in a 12-step recovery program, as you will have access to resources that can keep your cravings in check. Instead of asking “Is non-alcoholic beer safe for recovering alcoholics?”, you can get a personalized aftercare plan at our alcohol rehab Scranton PA center, for example. Furthermore, you will want to know what relapse is all about. By understanding how relapse actually works, you will be able to recognize the initial signs and take steps to correct your behavior or seek additional help.

How does relapse happen?

Relapse does not happen immediately but in three stages. The first stage, emotional relapse, is characterized by you feeling negatively toward the world and possibly yourself. Furthermore, you may start paying less attention to self-care than usual. This is the stage where you are feeling that something is wrong but you are unsure of what it is. The second stage, mental relapse, occurs once you start thinking about drinking alcohol again. At this stage, you will most likely be tempted to start drinking non-alcoholic beer. Throughout this stage, you will be at constant “war” with yourself, going back and forth between romanticizing drinking and knowing that it is bad for you. At this stage, sentiments like “One drink will be just fine” will start to occur. As you already know, when it comes to recovering alcoholics, one drink is one too many.

number 123 on a red beckground
Relapse occurs in three distinct stages.

Once you decide to indulge in that one drink, that’s it, you have arrived at the last relapse stage, physical relapse. Chances are that you are soon going to go back into your old habits once again.

Common relapse signs

The signs of relapse are different for every individual. However, some signs are more universal and you might be able to pick up on them more easily. Here are some of the most common signs of relapse:

  • Not practicing enough self-care
  • Falling into poor sleeping/eating habits
  • Isolating yourself from your friends and family
  • Avoiding therapy
  • Romanticizing your former drinking habits
  • Starting to think that “This time I will control it” when it comes to drinking
  • Exhibiting alcohol cravings
  • Breaking self-imposed rules

At times, you might even have a feeling that something is simply wrong. This may be connected to relapse, or it may not. Either way, the best thing to do is not to take any chances. If you are feeling that a relapse might be possible, it is always best to talk to a medical professional immediately.

a warning sign
Relapse is a slippery slope; you want to act as soon as you notice the signs.

I have relapsed; what now?

If you have relapsed despite all your best intentions, don’t worry. Most people in alcohol recovery relapse at least once, it is perfectly normal. While relapsing is not ideal by any stretch of the imagination, it is also something that is almost expected.

The best thing to do after you relapse is to simply check in with your recovery community or with your treatment center. The first step to maintaining sobriety is to own up to your mistakes. It may so happen that the simple admission may provide you with enough willpower to avoid relapse in the future. However, if this does not work and you relapse yet again at some point, you may want to consider joining an outpatient program for alcohol addiction.

As you can see, the answer to the “Is non-alcoholic beer safe for recovering alcoholics?” question is not as clear-cut as you might think. Even though there are many dangers to non-alcoholic beer, it may still be useful to certain people in recovery.

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