Me, Myself, and Non-Alcoholic Wine

Don’t stop me now. I’m having such a good time, I’m having a ball. Don’t stop me now. If you wanna have a good time, just give me a call.

Don’t Stop Me Now – Queen

So, my situation may or may not be somewhat unique. I live full time in a resort town where the majority of the people drink heavily. I date a full time musician who drinks, I have friends who drink, and I am not opposed to living in a house where there is alcohol. I know a lot of people who are sober and in recovery who can’t or choose not to voluntarily live the same way I do. I’ve had people in AA tell me “if you hang around the barber shop long enough, you’re gonna get your haircut.” Some people in recovery might consider my world a high risk environment. I 100% understand and respect those viewpoints. Believe me, I’ve had the pleasure of receiving some harsh criticism from others who are sober regarding my environment. But, the majority of my sober community, whether they agree or not, are supportive because in the end, these are my choices.

While my social life has shifted dramatically, I refuse to let alcohol completely alienate me and sometimes it’s complicated. Sometimes, I make things harder on myself than I need to. But hey, where’s the fun in life without some challenges! I rarely hang out in bars, and if I do I’m not closing the bar down like I used to. When it comes to parties or events, I arrive late and leave early if I want to, especially if alcohol is the main focus. But, I also go to a few of Josh’s gigs where there is alcohol and if friends visit, they are welcome to bring alcohol to the house. But the biggest controversial aspect of my sobriety? I drink non-alcoholic wine. I will be honest, I began drinking non-alcoholic wine in response to miserable month nine that I wrote about in my previous post, The Bad Voice Won’t Go Away But it Will Fade. I am fully aware my decision to drink non-alcoholic wine in response to a stressful situation is dangerous behavior. But, it turned out to have the completely opposite effect that I was expecting.

It’s the beginning of July. I am out to dinner with Jack and Stacy while Josh is playing a gig. Jack is definitely a wine connoisseur. He is a member of a wine club, he and Stacy participate in wine tastings, and they order the occasional glass of wine with dinner. They drink wine to compliment the experience – it is classy and sophisticated. They each order a flight of wine at dinner and consciously it doesn’t bother me in the least. We have a wonderful time, deep conversation, and a delicious meal. Afterward, instead of going to a bar, we head home. Jack and Stacy have a couple glasses of wine while we continue our conversation. It’s not until I go to bed that thoughts start running through my head. I could totally have a flight of wine with dinner just for the experience. I could handle just a couple of glasses of wine as a night cap. I could do that. From then on, for the rest of the month, I am completely miserable as I recount in my Bad Voice post. Because, if I am being honest, a flight of wine with dinner or a couple of glasses as a night cap would be followed by a bottle. I just want to have one damn glass of wine and enjoy the experience!!!! For once!!!!!! Why can’t I do that!!!!!

After the miserable experiences of July, I decide to go online and order a bottle of non-alcoholic wine which turns out is more expensive than actual wine. Of course, it’s more expensive – it’s as if you get punished for trying to live life in a healthier way. I tell my mom and ask her if she will have a glass with me. When it arrives, I look like a little kid at Christmas! Wow! It’s not a screw off cap! There’s actually a cork! I can use a wine bottle opener and everything! I open the bottle and the aroma is surprisingly pleasant. I let my my mom pour us both a glass because, honestly, I’ve forgotten what constitutes as normal amount – not a Brooke sized amount. We “clink” glasses and I pause. “Are you ok?” my mom asks. “Yeah, I’m fine. I’m just not sure how I am going to feel once I taste it.” I say. Am I going to want several glasses? Is this going to trigger me to want the real deal ? “We don’t have to do this if you are uncomfortable.” she replies “No, it’s ok. Let’s just try it.”

We take a sip. Wow! This tastes just like the wine we used to buy. It’s delicious. I take a deep breathe and smile. “This is really good” I say. We sit down, engage in conversation, and it’s not until the glass is empty that I realize how slowly I drank. That’s weird. I didn’t know I was capable of drinking anything slowly. I mean, I drink ice tea like I’m trying to win a bet because I get a headrush from drinking it so quickly. I wonder how my mom feels.

“This is amazing! I don’t have a headache!” my mom exclaims. Normally, she gets a headache before she even finishes a glass of anything alcoholic. How selfish of me. Until now, I thought the reason companies make non-alcoholic wine, beer, and spirits is to cater to the ones who have a problem. I didn’t consider it to be an option for those who are allergic, are not as tolerant, or even for those want to enjoy the drink without the hangover. “Do you want another glass?” she asks. I pause and look at my empty glass. “Actually, I’m ok. That was perfect.” I almost look around the room to see who was talking because I can’t believe those words just came out of my mouth. I’m not even lying, I truly mean what I just said! Is this how “take it or leave it” feels?!? I actually enjoyed the experience! No cravings for real wine! I am satisfied!

Turns out, non-alcoholic wine works for me. I enjoy the taste. I can have one glass, be done, and be happy and it’s not something I drink regularly. Now, non-alcoholic wine, beer, or spirits are not for everyone. Depending on the brand, the alcohol content can range from 0.0% up to 0.5% – similar to kombucha and also a deal breaker for some people. I am also not endorsing non-alcoholic wine, beer, or spirits – it’s 100% a personal choice. For me, non-alcoholic wine doesnโ€™t tempt me in the least. I don’t find myself craving the entire bottle, wanting another glass before I’m done the first one, or thinking about it once I put it away. It’s simply nice to enjoy the experience every once in a while and when I do, I am honest and aware of my feelings, emotions, and headspace. I don’t drink it when I feel angry, sad, upset, anxious, or frustrated. I don’t pour a glass at the end of a hard day. I don’t drink it by myself. I don’t drink non-alcoholic wine the same way that I drank regular wine. I drank regular wine (or anything alcoholic) to escape and distort reality. Drinking alcohol socially was (and still is) a complete a total mystery to me. I never, ever drank alcohol to be social. But, I have a different relationship with non-alcoholic wine. I drink it purely to be social! Something, I wasn’t sure I was capable of.

Jack, Stacy, and two other friends are coming to visit for Labor Day weekend. To avoid a repeat of July, I discussed a plan with Josh to ensure that I am comfortable. For me, my plan involves non-alcoholic wine. I refuse to allow alcohol to exclude me from the festivities that I want to be involved in. I refuse to be someone who says “go have fun and I’ll see you later” if it’s something I actually want to do – I just don’t want to live my life that way. If this Labor Day weekend mirrors ones in the past, it will look like this – we go to one of Josh’s gigs but instead of painting the town red, we will head back to the house, sit outside on the porch, listen to music, play games, and enjoy each others company (we also will take a trip to the boardwalk one night for rides and games!). Jack and Stacy will have wine, Josh potentially has a twisted tea, our other friends drink whatever they bring, and I will have my non-alcoholic wine. Josh and I have already committed to over-communication – if I’m uncomfortable at all, especially if he is drinking, and ask him to stop, he will stop. I also know that I have extremely caring friends – friends that I can talk to, who are incredibly supportive, and who won’t force me to be in a situation where I am uncomfortable.

I know that not everyone will agree with my decision and that’s ok. But I also know since getting sober, I am more honest and more self-aware than I’ve ever been in my entire life – and it’s an incredible feeling. While, I’m not saying my lifestyle is right for everyone, I am saying that it is possibility for some people. Sobriety is not a one size fits all journey, there is no one right way – find what works and live life to the fullest!

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