What's the point of drinking non-alcoholic?
“Now, this beverage?! I could totally see myself drinking this!!” These words are music to my ears! These are the words that I hear again and again from my clients, after they have discovered for the first time an alcohol-free beverage that suits them, that tastes delicious, that delights the palate and feels like a celebration… like something adult! It’s the flavor of ritual. It’s the taste of inclusion.
Just as I did myself three years ago, my clients want to reexamine their relationship with alcohol by either cutting back or quitting, but feel stuck because of a fear of feeling deprived or left out at social situations.
We like to see ourselves as individualists, and as being above caring what other people think or do. But that belies science! We evolved as tribal creatures whose survival depended on being part of the herd and fitting in.
“I felt so seen,” is what my friend, a 50-something marketing executive in Portland Oregon, told me. She had attended a gathering of female friends where Gin & Tonics were served and the host had also gone to the trouble of procuring a cute mini bottle of zero-proof Seedlip Garden and tonic just for her. Not only did she get to partake in the shared experience, but it’s now her new favorite adult beverage for social events. For her, it provides all the elements of the ritual, the ice, the glass, the high-end beautiful bottle, the appreciation of an imported craft spirit made with intention, maybe a sprig of herbs, and a refreshing, subtle and sophisticated taste…but with mental clarity instead of the fogginess and the poor-quality sleep that came with regular gin.
It was a stark contrast to another experiences that she had had. She belongs to a climbing group and they had trained for months for a technical climb. The others knew she didn’t drink alcohol, yet one member talked repeatedly during the climb about the beer they would enjoy at the summit. The summit moment should have felt like the ultimate bonding experience for all of them, yet my friend felt…apart, outside of it.
According to an article I just read in the Washington Post, after two decades of rising drinking rates, last year just 60 percent of Americans reported drinking any alcoholic beverages (down from 65 percent two years earlier). Not only are fewer adults drinking, but those who do are consuming less.
It used to be that Americans saw drinking in binary terms. You were either a “normal drinker” or a “problem drinker.” It meant that if someone declined a drink, there were only a few possibilities… they were the designated driver, pregnant, on medication, old or had “a problem.” If you weren’t in one of those categories (and even if you were), you were an open target for getting some teasing or outright harassment. The non-drinkers weren’t just an after-thought… no one thought of them at all, with meager offerings of soda or water. (Personally, I regret not have a local kombucha or nitro cold brew on tap in our winery tasting room all those years).
But through a confluence of influences, we’ve entered an entirely new era. The landscape is shifting and together, we’re improving drinking culture. Alcohol doesn’t have to exit. But there is no reason not to introduce exciting flavorful options for when people aren’t drinking for ANY reason. And there are so many more reasons than those limited categories of yore. You’re training for a run, up-leveling your business, delivering a presentation in the morning, have dogs or kids who wake you up early, doing Whole 30 or you’re (please insert your favorite reason for not drinking in the comments below), and my favorite reason… because you’re just not drinking tonight. Period.
Back to that Washington Post article, a long, well-researched and well-written article about the sober-curious movement. It’s a confusing article. The author seems of two minds about what to think and seems to ask the question himself, “why drink these non-alcoholic beverages.” Yet he begins the article by sharing that as he wrote the piece, he poured himself two G&T’s, one made with traditional gin and the other made with Pentire, a zero proof craft-botanical distilled spirit. And he acknowledges that he has mixed them up and cannot for the life of him tell them apart!
I have a true passion for these non-alcoholic beverages because I’m seeing the difference it’s made in the lives of people who come to me for help because they are in deep pain about drinking more than they want to again and again. I see how these non-alcoholic beverages allow people to stay in the ritual, to socialize or to decompress and transition from work day to evening.
So, I don’t mind answering the question “what’s the point of drinking the non-alcoholic one?”
But then hopefully we can agree, for the author of the article who has mixed up his G&T’s and can’t tell which one has alcohol in it and which one does not, isn’t is fair to ask him the question “what’s the point of drinking the alcoholic one?”
Martha Wright is a New Orleans-born wine industry veteran turned sobriety/mindful drinking coach. She works in small groups and 1:1 in her own practice, Clear Power Coaching, as well as serving as Senior Coach within This Naked Mind (founded by best-selling author Annie Grace). Martha offers a path to regain control that focuses on understanding the neuroscience of habits, uncovering unconscious beliefs, honing coping tools and cultivating fun and play. The goal is not removing alcohol, but rather removing alcohol is just one tool in reconnecting to our thriving lives. She loves sourcing and tasting the latest non-alcoholic beverages; inspirational podcasts; traveling; ping pong and roller skating.