It seems like a fairly cut and dried question, “Can a sober person consume non-alcoholic drinks?”. At a glance, “yes” would be the obvious answer. Sober, meaning “unaffected by alcohol” and non-alcoholic drink meaning “a beverage not containing alcohol”, a match made in heaven, or is it?

I suppose I should explain that by non-alcoholic drinks I don’t necessarily mean water or “soft drinks” but non-alcoholic alternatives to conventional alcoholic drinks such as beer, wine and spirits. By “sober” I allude to a person who no longer drinks alcohol at present but at one time could have been dependent on, addicted to or had a problem with drinking alcohol. The answer to this question is a bit more blurred.

A person finding sobriety might do so for many reasons. While on this journey they can arm themselves with many tools to assist them. This can include simple lifestyle changes, joining support groups or 12 step programs, finding new hobbies, hanging with new peers, enjoying pastimes and even attending rehabilitation clinics or services. 

The simple lifestyle change mentioned above could be reaching for a non-alcoholic drink over its alcoholic contemporary. Opting for one of these drinks can help for many reasons. They allow a person to socialise with peers and avoid the pressure to drink as they have a drink in their hand and fit in (this pressure can be both peer pressure and self-inflicted pressure). Newly sober people can feel fear of missing out (FOMO) when with their peer group and not being able to have a cocktail-on-cocktail night or a beer at the bar during happy hour. In extreme cases, the fear of ostracism can be crippling and a major inhibitor in one’s choice to get sober. The constant barrage of “why” that many people report when choosing not to drink while socialising can get exhausting, especially for people in the early stages of their journey to sobriety. Non-alcoholic drinks seem to make it easier to blend in with the crowd and fly below the radar, so to speak. They can also help a sober person who might be craving a drink while still not compromising their sobriety or health.

There appears to be many pros attached to these drinks and the sober community. Another worthy mention (please excuse my bias) is that the current availability and quality of non-alcoholic alternatives are incredibly exciting and almost look to be limitless in their potential.

It would be unfair to write this blog piece without mentioning the potential risks attached to the sober community and consuming non-alcoholic drinks. The biggest caveat is the risk of relapse upon consumption. Aromas, flavours, and mouth profiles can activate the brain’s dopamine receptors and leave the brain craving the real thing. This can also trigger other behaviours that may have been carried out while under the influence of alcohol. One such example of this is comedian Theo Von who openly discusses quitting alcohol as a means of dealing with a bigger issue he faced whenever he drank, the use of cocaine, which was his true vice. Finally, alcohol dependency could be the by-product of a deeper issue, and while it is not as damaging as the real thing, becoming reliant on non-alcoholic drinks could be a coping mechanism and means of masking the issue and avoiding getting to the heart of the cause of one’s problems.

To conclude, there are many arguments both for and against a person that is sober drinking non-alcoholic alternatives. With this in mind, we must remember a person who is sober is just that, a person and each person’s answer to the question raised by this article will be unique, different, and varying and what works for one person may not work for another. As a society, we should accept and respect everyone’s choice and not pressure a sober person into having a non-alcoholic drink while equally not vilifying a sober person for doing so. Instead, we should simply support and encourage them and let them find their way on what can be a very long and tough journey.