Alcohol-free drinks and mocktails may increase the risk of relapse during recovery.

Addiction recovery requires a thorough examination of a person’s social life and previous habits. An important part of the recovery process involves figuring out how someone in recovery can continue to see friends and stay involved with others while remaining steadfast in sobriety. What are some ways to have sober fun without compromising recovery? Sober bars are on the rise as more people in recovery seek ways to remain social. In these settings, mocktails are sometimes viewed as a recovery-friendly alternative to alcohol use. 

It’s a Mocktail. Why Wouldn’t It Be Safe in Addiction Recovery?

Early recovery is when the habits of sobriety begin. The addicted mind often looks for loopholes in the sobriety rules, and it is important to keep this in mind as you make decisions in your daily life. For those in alcohol addiction recovery, mocktails may not be a safe option due to the associations of these beverages to periods of active alcohol use. Drinking alcohol after drug rehab is also risky, as there is a strong possibility of transitioning from one substance addiction to another. 

Dangers of Alcohol-Free Drinks

At times, the recovery process can feel like tiptoeing through a landmine. While it may seem as though consuming alcohol-free drinks is safe, it could lead to drinking in recovery and become a barrier to recovery from addiction.

Some of the dangers of consuming alcohol-free drinks include:

  • Triggers. Even without the alcohol content, the memories associated with consuming this type of beverage can be an addictive trigger. Alcohol cravings and triggers can increase the risk of relapse.
  • Low-alcohol is not no-alcohol. Alcohol-free beer and alcohol-free wine are slightly misleading in their names, as they do contain small amounts of alcohol. While this may seem like an improvement over prior consumption, using these replacements during recovery is risky and can lead to relapse.
  • A slippery slope to binge drinking. Self-awareness in addiction recovery is crucial. When one is aware of their triggers and has set boundaries for their addiction recovery, relapse is less likely to occur. Using alcohol-free drinks may be safe at some point during recovery for those who are no longer triggered by this type of influence, but it should be approached with caution. Consuming mocktails or alcohol-free beer and wine too soon could result in binge drinking.

Benefits of an Occasional Mocktail

During early recovery, mocktails are not recommended due to the risk of relapse. When recovery has become a solid way of life, an occasional mocktail drink in social settings may be acceptable. People often find that recovery means a shift in their social circles. Isolation in addiction recovery can become a problem if there are few sober social connections available. It is beneficial and healthy to stay connected with others, particularly if they are also in recovery. Spending time with friends and staying connected is necessary for emotional health and wellness. Supportive recovery groups are available in most communities, and this may offer a healthy network with whom to connect. 

Avoiding Addiction Relapse Triggers

Recovery from addiction is often rife with relapse triggers. Coping with substance abuse triggers is an important step in avoiding relapse.

There are many ways to remain self-aware and establish relapse prevention strategies that can help you stay on track:

  • Pay attention to your thoughts and feelings. Try to be mindful of how you’re feeling. Are you feeling drawn to certain situations or risky behaviors? Monitoring your thoughts and feelings can help you avoid relapse.
  • Recognize former habits that could put you at risk. Hanging out with certain people and going places where you used to drink alcohol is risky behavior. It isn’t useful to put yourself to the test in this way, as it increases your odds of relapse.
  • Use this opportunity to try out some new lifestyle habits. The journey of recovery comes with a lot of losses. The decision to leave substances behind, the loss of certain friendships and changes in habits may be difficult to handle. However, you can also use recovery to try out new habits. Are there hobbies or activities that you can now participate in as a sober person? Sobriety may offer you some new opportunities that you wouldn’t have had when you were drinking or using drugs.

Mocktails in Addiction Recovery: Yes or No?

Addiction and recovery are personal experiences. What works for one person may or may not work for someone else. Regardless of the specific path, recovery and sobriety are crucial to living a healthy, long life after addiction.

Mocktails are a controversial subject in addiction recovery circles. Some feel as though mocktails and alcohol-free beer and wine are a slippery slope to relapse, as they are associated with prior alcohol use. Others feel that mocktails are a safe alternative that allows for socialization and connection with friends and help prevent isolation during recovery. 

Because triggers vary widely from person to person, it’s important that people in recovery are aware of their triggers. Some people may find that an occasional mocktail is safe, while others may discover that these types of beverages put them at risk for a return to alcohol use. Paying attention to your thoughts, feelings and urges can help you determine whether mocktails and other types of drink alternatives are safe choices for you.

The Recovery Village offers alcohol and drug treatment options across the country. These recovery programs offer a solid foundation that will help as you transition from the treatment facility to home. Reach out to a representative today to learn more about treatment options.

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Editor – Megan Hull
Megan Hull is a content specialist who edits, writes and ideates content to help people find recovery. Read more
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Medically Reviewed By – Paula Holmes, LCSW
Paula Holmes is a licensed clinical social worker, psychotherapist and freelance writer who lives and works in midcoast Maine. She received her master's degree in Social Work in 2008 from the University of Maine. Read more

Deloe, Jamie. “Self-Awareness Skills Help You Handle Triggers in Recovery.” August 9, 2018.



Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.