What about “non-alcoholic” beer in recovery?

Q. I quit drinking about 6 months ago. Things are most certainly getting better but I was wondering what effects if any have you seen in regards to non-alcoholic beer?

Beverages may be called non-alcoholic if they contain no more than 0.5% alcohol (one-half of one percent). That is roughly one 1/10th the percentage in a can of regular beer. That’s not much, but we don’t know how much it takes to keep the brain from recovering as it should, nor how much having low levels of blood alcohol for hours at a time (assuming that you drink more than one) has an effect. It seems to me that it is a danger that can be avoided, and thus undesirable.

Just as important, however, is the psychology. I’m telling myself that I can’t drink, but that I can keep on pretending that I can. I can hang with my troops and do the stuff we used to do, I’ll just drink O’Doul’s® or whatever. That shows reservations about our disease, regardless of what excuses we adopt, and indicates a definite ambivalence about remaining clean and sober.

I suspect that you may not be attending enough meetings, and that you didn't discuss this issue with your sponsor (if you have one).  If you aren't going to meetings, then I'd start. You can cheat on some things, but cheating on sobriety — whether physically or mentally — eventually lands you off the wagon and back in the muddy rut. It seems to me that knowingly drinking alcohol, even in small quantities, comes extremely close to just plain old drinking.

Some folks might disagree about this, but I know people who relapsed after thinking they could drink the stuff. I can’t say whether or not that was the cause, or just an expression of the “easier, softer way,” but I certainly wouldn’t take the chance myself, even after all this time.


  1. Studies have shown that people who drink non-alcoholic beer are more likely to relapse than people that don’t. However, correlation does not mean causation. It could be that those who do drink non-alcoholic beer are more likely to not be taking their recovery seriously. And I think this is the issue the original poster was getting at. I’ve been sober for two years.
    Personally, I do drink non-alcoholic beer. I do not see drinking non-alcoholic beer as pretending to drink. Non-alcoholic beer has many health benefits: increases the immune system, good source of B vitamins, helps anti-oxidant levels, and a japanese study showed it decreased incidents of cancer in mice. I’m sure the author has also seen plenty of people who did not drink the stuff relapse as well.
    Again, I think the issue is taking your recovery seriously. It could be that some of those choosing to drink it are many times not taking their recovery seriously to begin with.

  2. Certainly the main issue is taking your recovery seriously. The question is, how far does one go in taking it seriously? It could also be that some folks stretch pretty hard to justify what they want to do. One the other hand, what’s right for one isn’t necessarily right for all. The trick is being sure why one is deciding it’s OK.

    PS: A 6-pack of O’Doul’s sells for between five and seven dollars. The same amount will buy a months supply of high-quality multivitamins.

  3. I have only been sober for 3 months and I do drink NA beer. I have made a commitment to God and to myself and to my AA group, that I will never drink “real beer” or real anything alcoholic ever again. NA beer, to me, insures sobriety. It takes away the fear of relapse as I am perfectly contented with a few NA beers. I do not feel deprived, sick, or different from anyone else. I know I have a disease and it has taken me 40 years to address it and deal with it. God has brought me to this perfect peace and I would never tease my faith or my sobriety. I drink NA beer because I like the taste of beer, but have no desire to get drunk, I drink diet pepsi because I like the taste of pepsi but have no desire to gain weight. It is truly what works for you, this works for me.

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