Whether the use of non-alcoholic beer should be used by people in recovery from alcoholism has become a topic of some debate in the recovery community. The question revolves around whether the drink is a safe substitute or whether it will trigger the obsession for the real thing despite its negligible alcohol content.
Non-alcoholic beer, some argue, could be used in social situations as a way for the alcoholic to blend in rather than feeling like the odd man out. Others do not see why it cannot be used in the same way a nicotine patch helps smokers ween off of tobacco, since it only contains 0.5 percent alcohol by volume compared with at least 4.2 percent in true beer.
There likely is no one simple answer to the near beer question, given the variety of ways alcoholism can express itself in the individual. Alcoholics experience their disease as one that is not just physical, but also one of the mind and spirit.
Rather than being a safe choice as a means of staying off the hard stuff, non-alcoholic beer could actually bring back memories of the good old days of drinking. Sight, taste, and smell are known to trigger detailed remembrances, so the taste and smell of the near beer could be a gateway to a return to problem drinking. If the alcoholic can successfully drink this, they may think that perhaps a drink of the real deal will be alright.
We at A Calming Tide: Drug, Alcohol and Behavioral Resource believe it is better to err on the side of caution. After all, non-alcoholic beer cannot truly be compared with a nicotine patch, since the patch does not need to be lit and inhaled to do its job.
For all too many alcoholics, the act of drinking such a close booze substitute is too near to the real act of drinking alcohol that the amount of alcohol in the drink is beside the point. It becomes is slippery slope that those in recovery may not be able to navigate successfully.
Recovery from alcoholism is a process that must take all aspects of the disease into serious account on a daily basis. The sight or smell of alcohol for some sufferers is enough to derail their efforts return to health and sanity. That is why many alcoholics in early recovery stay away from situations where alcohol will be available. That is why we believe non-alcoholic beer should be avoided, as well.