When I first stopped drinking alcohol, ‘what to drink?’ occupied a lot of my thoughts. There was a big space in my life, that had previously been inhabited by the rituals and customs of drinking alcohol, and it was ready to be filled.
But I was too scared to drink alcohol free wine.
I felt I needed a wine alternative, something novel, that wasn’t what I was used to. In Australia a popular soft drink is ‘lemon, lime and bitters’ made of lemonade, lime cordial and Angostura bitters; this sounded good to me so I procured myself some bitters and added them to the usual soft drinks to give them a bit of a lift. I also found something called Soft Brew, which was a fruity, alternative to beer, made in a brewery and came in a beer bottle. Very nice, but I found that I could make the same drink for a fraction of the price by adding a dash of fruit cordial to alcohol free beer! Maybe others did too, as you can’t buy Soft Brew anymore…
Eventually I settled on elderflower cordial made with sparkling water, as my go-to alternative to wine. When I went out for a meal (I didn’t have a child when I first stopped drinking, so I did actually go out from time to time) I insisted that my elderflower cordial was served in a wine glass; I felt like a child drinking out of a tumbler when everyone else had a wine glass. I don’t really care about this anymore, but at the time, the ritual of having a nice wine glass was important to me.
But after a while of living on elderflower cordial, I ended up pretty much drinking sparkling water in place of alcoholic drinks. It goes with everything, and it isn’t sugary. I prefer it with a wedge of lemon or lime, which most pubs and restaurants can gladly provide.
But even after five years of being tee total, I was still too scared to try non-alcoholic wine. My fear was that it would trigger a wine craving, and that all the years of being happily alcohol free would be effectively wiped out. So I steered clear. What if it was like real wine, and awakened a voracious thirst in me? I was not going to risk it. For some reason though, I was always happy to drink alcohol-free beer; probably because I have never craved beer, like I did wine. However, on holiday one year, friends who were doing a supermarket run bought me a bottle of alcohol-free rose (along with plenty of beers and normal wine for themselves). Tentatively I tried it; I liked it and nothing bad happened. It didn’t trigger a relapse and I found it no problem to have just one glass. Phew, that was easy!
Alcohol free wine is now something I drink regularly. If you drink normal wine, I’m sure it wouldn’t appeal at all – it is sweet tasting, and obviously doesn’t have the alcoholic taste – but for me, I find it very useful and very pleasant. It doesn’t feel like a sugary soft drink, and it gives me some kind of ritual around drinking. Cheers, friends.