EP 64: Reader Question – Non-Alcoholic Drinks: Are they okay?

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Should we start drinking non-alcoholic wine or beer after we have eliminated alcohol? And can it cause some sort of trigger to crave alcohol again? Annie provides some great information on how we should approach this question.

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Non-alcoholic drinks

I’ve been asked twice now – What is your view on alcohol-free drinks, wine and beers as a substitute? Okay or avoid?” And then Kimberly asks, “What are your thoughts on drinking so-called nonalcoholic beverages? My sense is that while they may make it easier to join in socially, they may hamper my true desire to totally eliminate drinking alcohol from my life.”

Loaded Question

This is a really good question, and interestingly, I did not realize that this was such a controversial and loaded question when I stopped drinking. For myself, I am not necessarily opposed to drinking a non-alcoholic drink like beer or a low alcohol wine. I just haven’t done it. I haven’t done it, because I haven’t desired to do it. When I was pregnant, and I was still a drinker when I was pregnant with both my kids. But I remember going out and having non-alcoholic beer and just not enjoying it, because it wasn’t the non-alcoholic beer that I wanted. It was the alcohol in the real beer. It didn’t ever taste that great. I only ever had just one, and I felt deprived anyway.

Replacing Habits

Since I quit drinking, the thought of having a non-alcoholic drink like beer or a low-alcohol wine or whatever, it just hasn’t even crossed my mind. Now that’s not to say that I haven’t substituted the habit with some stuff. One of the things that I learned that was really important about replacing a habit, and obviously, we know alcohol is much more than a habit, because there’s psychological addiction, emotional addiction, physical addictions. It’s much more than a habit.

Think Less

However, there are some very clear things that are very habitual about drinking, and those are fairly easy to address. We should address those, and we should change those. But a habit by definition means that your brain thinks less. You file away whatever your behavior is, driving to work, brushing your teeth, and it frees up your conscious brain to think about other things. There is a theory that habits are very hard to end or eliminate, because they’ve actually started and created pathways in your brain, but habits can be replaced.


Charles Duhigg, he cites some research from MIT. Basically, he says that there’s this habit loop. The habit loop starts with the cue, so whatever triggers the habit, whatever says to your body or brain, you get in the car, you turn it on, your brain just gets into driving mode, right? You get out your toothpaste, your brain gets into toothbrushing mode. You do it all very naturally.


Then there’s the routine. There’s what you actually do. Then there is the reward, so what you get from it. The cue, obviously, for me, it was getting off work. It was the end of a day, and I’d walk out into the kitchen. My routine was that I’d open this cabinet that we have where we have all these big, huge wine glasses. I’d pour myself another glass of wine out of the box of wine, because it was cheaper, and because nobody could tell how much I was drinking. I could drink more than a bottle and not have to worry about it, whereas if it was a bottle, when the bottle was gone, and I’d want more, I felt really weird opening another bottle. Anyway, it was boxed wine for me. That was my routine was I’d pour that wine.


The reward was all the things you think you would imagine. You settled into cooking dinner, whatever. What was really interesting when I dug into this habit loop is that the reward for me … and that’s what you need to do. You need dig into what exactly your cue is, getting off work, walking to the kitchen, whatever. You know your routine, more or less. That’s the obvious part. That’s your drinking, and then what exactly the reward is.


My reward was this transition, this mental transition from work to off work and all the things that came along with that, stopping thinking about work, starting thinking about my kids, starting to make dinner, starting to have a conversation with my husband, all of these very rewarding, naturally rewarding things. What I noticed when I really dug into it is that I asked myself when exactly am I starting to experience the reward once I said okay, because I so believe … you can read more about this in the book, the exact neuroscience. But I so believe that there is no reward in actually drinking, aside from the fact that when you have been drinking, you are suffering withdrawal from the alcohol leaving your system. That alcohol replaces the alcohol that’s left. You feel this reward, simply that the alcohol has created. You’re filling a hole that the alcohol created in the first place.

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Special music thank you to the Kevin MacLeod Funkorama (incompetech.com)
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