Can Alcohol-Free Drinks Cause Relapse?
Attitudes towards alcohol-free drinks are changing. The Low & No 2022: The Consumer Perspective report states that they expect the UK low-and-no (low alcohol or no alcohol) market to be worth upwards of £450 million by 2024 after growing by 180% last year, however, this report fails to provide information on how alcohol-free drinks can encourage relapse. Furthermore, this report identified that nearly 29% of pub visits and 37% of restaurant outings are alcohol-free.
With 55% of UK drinkers consuming less than 10 units of alcohol per week, we’re seeing a reduction from 2019 when the NHS reported 60% of adults drinking up to 14 units per week.
The above suggests that there is certainly a rise in the popularity of alcohol-free drinks. With so many people’s New Year’s resolutions to cut back on alcohol, there are many other reasons why people are choosing to lower their alcohol intake more than ever. The Low & No 2022: The Consumer Perspective report goes on to say that 55% of UK drinkers were aiming to reduce their alcohol consumption in 2022, rising to 65% for Gen Z. The primary reason for reducing alcohol intake is to improve health and interestingly, the taste was named as the main reason for choosing a non-alcohol alternative.
Whilst the popularity of alcohol-free drinks has created more options for everyone, even those who have previously struggled with alcohol addiction, this also has the potential to have a negative impact on recovering alcoholics. It’s understandable to assume that alcohol-free drinks provide a great alternative for recovering alcoholics, however, the similarities to consuming alcohol are so strong, it can trigger cravings and have a devastating impact on recovery; this is how alcohol-free drinks can encourage relapse.
Particularly if you assume a low-alcohol drink would be suitable for someone in recovery, this is simply not true, even the smallest percentage of alcohol can set you back years on your recovery journey as it instigates that vicious cycle of addiction again.
The Triggers of Alcohol Addiction
There can be many triggers of alcohol addiction, many of which make relapse a real possibility. Understanding what these triggers are, and being able to recognise and overcome them, will allow you to be much more prepared to cope with them whilst avoiding an alcohol relapse. Identifying your individual triggers and temptations during recovery takes time, you’ll need to make a conscious effort to document them as they arise; carrying a small notepad with you is an effective way of doing this.
One of the most common triggers is stress. Unsurprisingly, stress impacts everyone at many stages in our lives. Being able to effectively manage stress is an incredible skill, it’s also useful to plan ahead so you can avoid stressful situations as much as possible.
Throughout addiction treatment, one of the most effective therapies is stress management. These techniques teach you how to be proactive rather than reactive to overcome stress. You might not initially recognise how stress can cause a relapse because it’s become such a normal part of your life. It’s important that you don’t underestimate the impact stress can have on you.
Your emotions have a huge influence on your recovery journey, they have the potential to be significant triggers for relapse. Experiencing negative emotions is a very common cause of alcohol addiction. Many people perceive drinking alcohol to be a short-term solution to resolving their negative emotions, however, you then build up an association with alcohol every time you feel those emotions.
It may seem obvious that negative emotions can trigger relapse, however, it isn’t just our negative emotions that can do so. Our positive emotions can also be relapsing triggers as you may be overconfident in avoiding relapse or struggle to say no when you feel generous.
Another common trigger for relapse is the situations and the social circles you involve yourself with. Even if you believe you’re strong enough to attend an event where you know alcohol will be available, it’s extremely difficult to ignore that it’s there, particularly if you’re recently out of rehabilitation and in the early stages of your recovery.
The temptation is often too much, for peace of mind and to keep your recovery on track, make a note of potential events, social situations, and people who you feel could have a negative influence on your recovery. Even if they promise you there will be non-alcoholic drinks available, there will likely still be others around you consuming alcohol, contributing to the dangers of alcohol-free beverages in recovery.
What Are the Dangers of Alcohol-Free Drinks in Recovery?
If you’re in recovery and are thinking about trying alcohol-free drinks, it’s essential that you know the damage it can do to your recovery progress. You may feel as though an alcohol-free beer will help you to feel less left out as opposed to water, however, even this alcohol-free beer can act as a trigger and generate cravings for alcohol. Some non-alcoholic beer still has traces of alcohol (typically around 0.5%), so whilst you’re unlikely to feel any alcoholic effect, it can be a powerful trigger and entry drink into increasing your percentages until you consume alcohol again.
Even the look and feel of the bottle of non-alcoholic beer can be a relapse trigger. It looks, feels, smells, and even tastes like the alcohol alternative so the same senses are experienced, without the intoxicating effect. Essentially, alcohol-free options for recovering individuals are a slippery slope to relapsing, we strongly recommend complete sobriety.
Can Alcohol-Free Drinks Be Safe?
Whilst addiction treatment and recovery are unique to each person, it’s worth considering whether you feel alcohol-free drinks are worth the risk of relapsing, even if you believe it to be low risk. We believe the psychological triggers that alcohol-free drinks present, are too damaging to a person in recovery to consider. Don’t compromise your recovery goals by succumbing to peer pressure or being led to believe that alcohol-free drinks have 0% alcohol. Phone today on 0800 470 0382 if you require any support or advice.