The Pseudo-Alcohol Trigger


By Dr. Shannon

Original Source:

One of the hardest times to remain sober is during the holidays. Unfortunately, holidays come around nearly every month and most of them are notorious for involving alcohol.
Some people may think having an O’Doul’s or other non-alcoholic beer is a safe alternative to the real deal, but when you’re working to maintain your sobriety it is never a good idea to consume any non-alcoholic alternative. The feel of a beer bottle in your hand, or even the familiar taste of a virgin apple martini can instantly trigger you into desiring something more, which brings you that much closer to a relapse. No matter how long you have been sober- a week or a year- a pseudo-alcohol trigger could cause you to crumble.

Many in recovery maintain a false sense of security and believe that they are able to control themselves and the situation. The familiar cognitive responses you once had while celebrating with an alcoholic beverage come back, along with the feelings of happiness, confidence and acceptance. The major downfall is that the virgin version won’t be enough, and the trigger causes you to crave the real thing.

This kind of trigger is never a safe alternative because as alcoholics, our brains are too good at tricking us into thinking we are capable of handling ourselves, which our past life has proven we are not. You may have examples of friends or occasions when you yourself used a virgin drink as a replacement.  I am not suggesting it will always lead to relapse but I am suggesting it often does.  Why make things harder on yourself then need be? Your sobriety should not be tested in situations that once were standard reasons for you to drink. The trigger is too powerful, and too dangerous. Stay true to your new self and your new sober life.

Dr. Shannon is a committed, focused and experienced dually licensed clinician, educator and clinical supervisor with 20+ years of clinical experience.