For many of my readers, alcohol-free drinks are the single most useful prop for getting through the early days of being sober.
If you've read my book, The Sober Diaries, you will know that Beck's Blue got me through many a dark hour. When I was dealing with the cancer diagnosis, I would cling to my bottle of alcohol-free beer like a drowning man to a life-raft.
Here, however, is a health warning: Some people find alcohol-free drinks very dangerous.
Alcoholics Anonymous strongly advise not going near 'fake alcohol.' Their argument is that it just makes you want the real stuff, and it's a displacement activity that stops you properly 'recovering.'
The truth is, you just have to know yourself - what works for you and what doesn't.
In my early months of being sober, I avoided alcohol-free wine. Just looking at the bottle would make me yearn for a glass of the hard stuff.
But alcohol-free beer was totally different, because I had never been a beer drinker. I'd never thought of weak, gassy beer as a 'proper drink'. So, alcohol-free beer was not a trigger for me at all. And it really helped. Here's why:
We have spent years, decades, teaching our sub-conscious minds that the way to wind down and de-stress, is to have a drink. Initially, when we quit, our sub-conscious really misses that short-cut to relaxation.
Over time, we find better, varied and more healthy ways of doing the same thing, but - in the meantime - 'fake booze' tricks your self-conscious into chilling out. I promise you, it works. When I first discovered Beck's Blue it even made me feel drunk. Woo hoo!
Also, most 'soft drinks' are not created for adult palates. They are very, very sweet, filled with sugar and preservatives, and often very gassy. There is nothing that makes you feel more deprived at a drinks party than only being offered tap water or sticky orange juice. If you're lucky, you get elderflower. Oh joy.
Alcohol-free drinks, however, make you feel properly grown-up. (I rarely feel properly grown-up). A glass of Seedlip (alcohol-free spirit) with a Fever-Tree tonic and some fresh mint at the end of the day hits the spot way better than Ribena.
Also, many of us don't like to tell people initially that we've quit drinking. The admission leads to so many questions and assumptions, that often it's easier to keep quiet for a while. Alcohol-free drinks help you to 'fake it till you make it.' If you sit drinking a bottle of AF beer in a pub, no-one bats an eyelid, and you still feel like one of the crowd.
An added bonus of alcohol-free drinks is that many of them are seriously good for you! That makes a change, doesn't it? If you haven't tried Kombucha already then do. It's really yummy and amazingly healthy. Plus, it's super trendy, so you'll be surfing the zeitgeist.
Alcohol-free beer is incredibly low in calories, contains nothing artificial and is full of B vitamins - exactly the ones that big drinkers tend to be deficient in. Isn't that a lovely form of karma?
One thing to be aware of: since this market is quite new, there are strange anomalies in the labelling regulations. Any drinks that are 0.5% ABV or less in mainland Europe can be described as 'alcohol-free'. In the UK, however, 0.5% is classed as 'low alcohol.'
This is nonsense, as even orange juice is 0.5% ABV, and it is impossible to become inebriated on 0.5%. Club Soda are lobbying Parliament to update the labelling of Alcohol-Free drinks.
When I first quit drinking, there were very few alcohol-free options available. Now there are hundreds.
My personal favourites are: lager - Bavaria 0%, ale - Brewdog Nanny State, spirits - Seedlip and Berkshire Blend, wine - Torres Natureo and the new Adnams 0.5 range, Prosecco - Scavi & Ray. Please add your own favourites in the comments below!
My friend, The Wise Bartender (who has just had a baby girl. A mini-wise-bartender, isn't that lovely?), stocks all of the above and lots, lots more and will deliver all over the UK. If you quote the code SOBERMUMMY on checkout, he'll give you a 5% discount. Whoop whoop.
There is loads more information and inspiration on being alcohol-free, as always, on the SoberMummy Facebook page.
Love to you all,