O Doulâ€™s in School?
When it comes to non-alcoholic beer, the verdict is still out as to whether itâ€™s sage to drink one of these on occasion or not. It is often suggested that those in early recovery avoid it, as sometimes just the taste or smell of what one once imbibed may be enough to send an alcoholic right back into relapse. On the other hand, I have seen others in recovery sip one on occasion, but most often it has been someone who has maintained a sober lifestyle for many years and practices a program of recovery. Bottom line, there is a minute amount of alcohol in these malt beverages – 0.5% – which leads purists to say they should absolutely be avoided, lest even that small amount could reawaken the â€œsleeping tigerâ€ of addiction.
Since most of us in recovery are adults (even if we donâ€™t always act that way), I say itâ€™s an individual decision, hopefully made under the council of oneâ€™s mentor.
However, earlier this month, a Michigan teacher made the news by allowing her class of fifth graders to sample a taste of Oâ€™Doulâ€™s non-alcoholic beer as part of a study of colonial life in the 1700s. Back in those days, the water quality was questionable, so most, even children, drank ale rather than risk disease.
The teacher was not disciplined, nor were there any complaints or charges. Those who wanted sampled a small taste. Since the label states the beer is non-alcoholic, she assumed it would be okay. However, due to the miniscule amount of alcohol in the Oâ€™Douls, it could have been prosecuted as a misdemeanor, according to Andrea Miller, the stateâ€™s Liquor Control Spokeswoman, since there were minors involved. No one wanted a complaint filed, however, so they let it go.
â€œWe talked to the teacher and said that this was an inappropriate choice,â€ said School Superintendent, Ed Koledo. â€œThere were a lot better choices to represent colonial-era drink than what was chosen here.â€
I, too, believe this was an inappropriate choice, just as I personally believe adults drinking beer – non-alcoholic or otherwise – in early recovery is a sketchy proposition at best. The issue at the Michiganâ€™s Hyatt Elementary school was that these were minors. The issue for those of us recovering is that it fosters the alcoholicâ€™s mindset. We already know things that remind us of the old days can trigger us, and it sure smells, tastes, and looks like what I once enjoyed â€œtoo well.â€ Just as it canâ€™t be much fun to sit in a bar with a 7-up watching everyone else having what you canâ€™t, drinking â€˜near beerâ€™ as a poor substitute for the real thing is a relapse waiting to happen. I once knew someone who would drink copious amounts at once, I would guess, trying to get enough of that trace alcohol to get her buzz on. She ended up dying after a series of failed attempts at abstinence.
And I speak with experience. I had been sober for 18 months and was going through a difficult time. I went to my employee Christmas party and wanted to drink so badly that it absolutely consumed me. I abstained at the party, but I wanted the taste so bad I went to a local watering hole and drank a couple of non-alcoholic beers. That satisfied me – at least for that five minutes. It worked so well that I decided to continue drinking them, but only when I went out.
It was a mere few weeks before I thought about what a waste it was to spend the same amount of money for beer without any alcohol, which is what I really wanted, after all, even though I couldnâ€™t admit it to myself. Everyone else was having so much fun! What could a beer hurt?
Of course, the predictable outcome was that I was once again back to my old barfly ways. I continued drinking another several years before I attempted recovery again. But I did learn something from the experience: substitution is dangerously risky. I never tried that again. Those extra years in my disease only brought more misery, and I still ended up in recovery. It was just another lesson about how cunning, baffling and powerful my disease is. I surrendered, as we all eventually must.
And the fifth-graders? Iâ€™d say our society already does a great job schooling everyone as to the wonderful, sultry, gotta-have-it-in-your-life-to-be-one-of-the-beautiful-people that drinking alcohol makes us. We see it on billboards, on TV, and everywhere else. Do we want to educate our kids that drinking is what successful, happy people do, even before they get that from their peers in high school? A couple of them took bottles home. Were they going to play Colonial Man with it? Many will succumb to that erroneous, societal influence – perhaps those who donâ€™t have enough self-esteem to find value in themselves without it. Sadly, that may be where the real misjudgment lies.
B. Lenz, Intervention Services