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Non-alcoholic beer, mouthwash, cooking with wine: alcoholics in recovery are divided on whether or not using these products is actually a relapse. Some people think you should avoid any product that contains alcohol, not because it’s necessarily a relapse, but because it could lead to one. In fact, studies have shown that drinking non-alcoholic beer can lead to a relapse because it triggers chemicals in the brain that causes your body to expect alcohol.

I think the question of whether drinking non-alcoholic beer in recovery is or is not a relapse isn’t really the important one. Some better questions are:

  • Why would you want to?
  • What is the purpose?
  • What are your motives for drinking non-alcoholic beer in recovery?

Now this is just my opinion, but I feel like if you are using alcohol-containing products for a reason (like treating a cold or preventing gingivitis), that’s one thing. But drinking non-alcoholic beer or shooting up water, well, maybe it’s not a relapse, but it’s certainly relapse behavior. You may want to check yourself, because you’re headed down a dangerous path.

I mean what real reason is there for drinking non-alcoholic beer? It tastes terrible. It does contain alcohol, but you’d have to drink a lot to really get drunk. Is it to fit in with other people who are drinking? Is it to satisfy some need to feel like you are drinking?

I’ve known several people who did not think drinking non-alcoholic beer in recovery was a relapse. To them, it was the loophole of sobriety, a way to drink without really drinking. Sooner or later, every single one of them ended up relapsing with the real stuff.

In the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, we are told that we have a physical allergy to alcohol, that it triggers the phenomenon of craving. Even drinks with little alcohol can trigger this physical allergy and cause you to crave. I know alcoholics who have a long time in the program and have accidently taken a sip of something that contains alcohol. Sure, they were able to immediately recognize it and get rid of the drink, but even they reported experiencing some craving after drinking it.

So why would you play with fire by drinking a non-alcoholic beer in recovery? It’s risky, to say the least. I’ve spoken to family members of one friend who used to drink non-alcoholic beer in recovery. They said he exhibited the exact same behaviors when drinking non-alcoholic beer as he did when he was drinking real beer. Needless to say, this man is no longer sober.

If you want to drink non-alcoholic beer, my advice would be to first speak to your sponsor. He or she will your best resource for examining your motives for drinking non-alcoholic beer in the first place, and will likely be able to offer you words of experience or advice about the situation. Many addicts and alcoholics I know simply avoid anything that contains alcohol because they don’t want to run the risk. To them, it’s not worth it to take a chance that they might go back to drinking.

If you or someone you know needs treatment for their alcoholism please call us at 800-951-6135 or visit us online at

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