Are NA Beers and Kombucha Safe to Drink for Alcoholics?

So here’s a question:

Is it safe for those in recovery or who are cutting out alcohol for a while to drink NA beers and/or kombucha?

Now, both of these beverages contain less than 0.5% alcohol, so for some, it’s not a problem. There have been unscientific experiments where people will have 15-20 kombuchas or NA beers and then see if they register on a breathalyzer. And they have failed.

So if you’re looking to get a buzz from these, you probably won’t succeed and you may want to examine why you want that buzz in the first place 😉

In recovery circles, the ideas of having anything with trace amounts of alcohol causes many lively debates.

Proponents of NA beers and kombucha will say that they are in it for the taste or the health benefits. That they feel like they can fit in at social events with an NA beer in hand. That it doesn’t threaten their sobriety at all and they have no intentions of stepping out of their sobriety.

Those against these drinks will say alcohol is alcohol, regardless of the amount. That it can “trigger” the craving for booze again. That they are skirting with danger and toying with their sobriety.

I know many people with long-term recovery who drink NA beers with no problems and I know others who go as far as finding non-alcoholic mouthwash, cough syrup and vanilla extract.

What comes up for me in this is one thing: intent.

I have no issues with anyone drinking these beverages. What you put into your body is non of my business.

But examine yourself before making the decision to purchase these drinks.

Are you secretly trying to reenact that feeling of drinking? Are you kinda hoping you feel a little *something* even though chances are you won’t? Are you looking to connect with what you thought drinking did for you? Is there an association / romanticism of the old days that you’re looking to trigger?

So in the end, the answer of is NA beer and/or kombucha safe for those in recovery or those cutting alcohol out for a while is – it depends on you .

If you find that it can poke the bear, or that you feel uncomfortable with it, then avoid it. Tons of other options out there!

If you find that it does nothing for you, your intentions are “clean” and doesn’t evoke old associations for you, then enjoy!

(Note: a poll I am running on Twitter has both sides 50/50 on it, so clearly this is totally dependent on the person!)

What are your thoughts on this?


14 Comments Add yours

  1. martinjoneil says:

    As a recovered Alcoholic (we say recovered not recovering because we have recovered from a hopeless state of mind and body, but are still an Alcoholic) I have chosen to try and stay away from things that have Alcohol in them. Mouthwash is not an issue for me, NyQuil, etc. is a different story, and food with heavy wine based sauces are a definite NO. But, as we say in AA, that’s my program and no on else’s. That being said…I look at it this way when it comes to NA beers…Non-Alcoholic beer is for Non-Alcoholics. Fear of fitting in in a social situation? Have you seen what a Cranberry Juice and Tonic with a lime looks like from an appearance stand point? Not to mention, it’s very refreshing and good for your kidneys!

  2. Hearon (HD) says:

    I replied to your tweet but will do so here as well. I think this is so dependent on the individual. During my first period of sobriety I drank NA beers as a replacement. I would go to bars and hide the label so it appeared that i was drinking real beer. This is not true (or maybe healthy) sobriety. Did this have a factor in my subsequent relapse? Probably not directly but my sobriety clearly was not solid. I bought some “craft” NA beer and drink one occasionally. Interestingly, I only drink it at home (like if wife and I are just hanging out). If we go to a BYOB event I never take it; I take sparkling water, and I think I do this specifically so that I am not “replacing.” I’ve always loved the taste of beer; sometimes it is nice for me to get this taste. I guess I feel like I’ve been on both sides of this; I see the danger, but I also feel I can drink this with no problem now.

    1. Paul S says:

      Thanks Hearon! I have to admit that I do miss the *taste* of beer. I really do. So a part of me has always been “hey, they make these new craft NA beers, why not try it?” and I think that other part of me is “be careful, Pauly”. And so while it can be tempting at times, I just know deep down it’s a slippery slope. We all have our experiences to filter this through! And I love your self-awareness about taking sparkling water to parties. As I mentioned in a response here – we feel like we need to have a NA beer to fit in – so it seems that we are “using” that drink to “feel” different. So how different is that from us drinking regular beer to feel different? hmmmmm… thanks again Hearon!

  3. bgddyjim says:

    I won’t go near them… and why would anyone drink 15 of anything!? And I think that gets to the heart of the matter. I’d never drink two Cokes in a row, so if I drank more than 1 NA beer in a sitting, it’d be just as you suggested in your post… if I’m honest, I’d be trying to “get something out of it”. That said, i did have two NA beers, about 26-1/2 years ago. My body recognized the trace alcohol and I started shaking. Just a little tremor, but unmistakable. After that, I knew I had no business going anywhere near near beer.

    1. I also answered your FB post, but I can drink any AF stuff except red wine. I tried that once, but it triggered me so much, I never had it again.

      I rarely drink the other AF beers, because they are so gassy! Lol
      Mostly I like sparkling water as well! Saves me calories I can use for dessert!

      1. bgddyjim says:

        I’m with you on the sparkling waters… cranberry juice, club soda and lime as well. I have no troubles with those at all.

        1. Paul S says:

          Sparkling water is my go to as well! And you just described my FAVE drink when I go out to dinner or a party – cranberry, soda and lime! Amazing beverage!

      2. Paul S says:

        Yes Wendy! Thank you again. I think this experience is unique to us all. I think I had NA sparkling wine once and it just tasted like pop. But it was just…odd. Never had it again. And yes to the calories!

    2. Paul S says:

      Glad that you realized this, Jim. I haven’t tried NA beer and have no interest, especially when I hear of experiences like this. It’s too close to the nose for me, to be honest. Thank you as always for sharing!!

  4. Sharon says:

    I gave this topic some thought a while back, and I have come to the conclusion that it is not for me.
    In late May I will have 22 years of sobriety. I am not going to risk that for any reason. I made over my life, found new friends, and do not go to any of the old hangouts. For me, it seems like tempting fate and risking going down a very slippery slope.
    Others can do what works for them. Taking any risk of relapse is something I avoid.
    I enjoy the way these postings get me thinking, so keep up the good work.

  5. Ainsobriety says:

    I mostly don’t drink calories. So I never really got into the af drinks. My ex drank af beer. He said it helped him feel comfortable at restaurants, etc.
    people drink virgin caesars…is that any different?

    I’m not opposed in any way.

    1. Paul S says:

      I think the idea of fitting in is a mindset thing, of course. We don’t need AF drinks to “feel” different – having said that, how different is that from drinking regular drinks to feel like we fit in?? I think it’s the same mechanism. But at least no alcohol is present.

      I have no horse in the races of others. For me, I can have kombucha now and then and I am okay with it. NA beers – nope! Not interested! Thanks Anne!

  6. furtheron says:

    I generally avoid them. It is about the mindset and if I have that taste where will it lead?… I’d rather not test my sobriety in that way.

    One funny story – in my last year of drinking my pattern became; Give up, Start again believing can drink normally, go mental again!, unable to stop… Give up… etc.

    In one of those one of my starting again was to drink NA beer. I regularly consumed 10 – 15 pints a day. DO NOT DRINK NA BEER IN THAT QUANTITY! I was never so sick through drinking in all my alcoholic drinking – seriously my stomach felt like it was being crushed by a jackhammer!

    1. Paul S says:

      Thanks Graham for this! I can see myself doing that NA pounding back thing. Seriously. I mean, if one is okay, then 15 is alright too, yes? ha ha.

      I think it can be a slippery slope, and while I commend those who can drink those without any issues, it’s just not my jam. Like you.

      Have a marvelous day!

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