Risking sobriety for one little sip?


Shiner SmokehouseA beer that tastes like barbecue?

Damn if I didn’t want a taste!

A few weekends ago, B. discovered Shiner Smokehaus, a new “sommer bier” from a popular local brewer. He & I were enjoying some really good smoked brisket at the time and he said the beer tasted kind of like the meat (in a good way), and they went really well together.

Then he offered me his bottle to give it a try.

Now, back in my drinking days – all those eight months ago – wine was my poison of choice. But when I did opt for the hops, the only beer I’d ever quaff was Shiner Bock, a meaty, flavorful lager. So when B. offered me a taste of their new brew, I suddenly had a dilemma.

I really wanted to taste it. Purely for the taste. The way he described it, it sounded truly unique, and I was utterly intrigued and eager to try this beer.

But wouldn’t I be breaking my sobriety?

To be honest, I wasn’t quite clear on that point.

B. & I discussed it for a bit, and then I decided against it. Although just a small sip, the idea of drinking beer — even a miniscule amount — just seemed wrong. I felt I’d be crossing a line I didn’t want to cross.

I imagined what might have happened if I’d done the same thing when offered a sip of a really tasty wine — something that has in fact occurred a few times over the last eight months. I resisted in those instances, because I knew I wouldn’t be able to take Just One Sip. I knew it would taste too good, and I’d feel that delicious wineglow instantly. It probably wouldn’t be the same with the beer, but still…  I didn’t want to jeopardize my eight months of hard-earned sobriety. It was just too risky. So I declined, and went on with my day, not really giving it another thought.

Well, I did make a little mental note to ask my AA sponsor about it later. I recalled her telling me a story about a recent girls’ weekend when she mistakenly got served an alcoholic drink in the guise of an alcohol-free one. She reported that the taste of the liquor shocked her and burned her throat, causing her to spit it out immediately. She called her own sponsor, terribly shaken, to ask what this meant for her 15 years of sobriety. Her sponsor assured her that she hadn’t broken her sobriety, as the drinking hadn’t been intentional.

And sure enough, when I discussed my dilemma with her this week, she made that distinction. An unintentional slip like hers wasn’t considered a break in sobriety. But a willful one, such as the sip I was pondering, would be.

So there you have it.

Coincidentally enough, just this week I ran across an article about this very topic. For AA’s whose work relates to alcohol, it poses an even more troublesome problem than mine. And it seems that the various recovering chefs and bartenders quoted in The New York Times have chosen their own ways of addressing the situation.

I can imagine my non-alcoholic friends thinking this is all much ado about nothing. And yet, to me it isn’t. I know I’ve come too far to go back to where I’ve been. Not even for the most ambrosial alcohol in the world.

And certainly not for a barbecue-flavored beer.


8 Responses to “Risking sobriety for one little sip?”

  1. yeah. thats what i tell people as well. glad you did not ‘pick up the first drink’ as they say..
    keep on keepin on.. 🙂

    If you want to hide something from an alcoholic, put it in the Big Book.
    the answer to “is one mouthful ok” is on page 21 of the big book

    “once he takes ANY alcohol whatever into his system” p21

    ANY alcohol
    not ‘one little sip’
    not a pint
    not a glass
    not 3 glasses

    ‘takes’ ie willfully. makes a choice to ingest.

    “We know that while the alcoholic keeps away from drink, as he may do for months or years, he reacts much like other men. We are equally positive that once he takes any alcohol whatever into his system, something happens, both in the bodily and mental sense, which makes it virtually impossible for him to stop. The experience of any alcoholic will abundantly confirm this. These observations would be academic and pointless if our friend never took the first drink, thereby setting the terrible cycle in motion.”
    p22 big book

    who ever heard of a hay fever sufferer with a compulsion to sniff flowers?’
    we have an allergy
    one is too many and a hundred arent enough.
    After step 9 this lack of mental defense against the first drink no longer exists. instead this ‘new’ mentality replaces it:
    “We feel as though we had been placed in a position of neutrality—safe and protected. We have not even sworn off. Instead, THE PROBLEM HAS BEEN REMOVED. IT DOES NOT EXIST FOR US. We are neither cocky nor are we afraid. That is how we react so long as we keep in FIT SPIRITUAL CONDITION.”
    p85 Big book.

  2. Very nice to meet you. I came over to visit because I was intrigued by the name. Very clerver and have very much enjoyed your journey through sobriety so far. Keep up the great posts and passion for AA! It is the single BEST thing that ever happened to me. I’ll be back to visit again. God bless!

  3. 3 Man Alive

    Thanks for the reminder of how tricky and self destructive we can be. I have occasionally been tempted to that one sip. When under the “spell” it seems reasonable, just, necessary (after all, why be a party pooper!). But once that spell is broken it is clear how dangerous the proposal is.

    Thanks again for post.

    Have a great Saturday.

    Man Alive

  4. 4 Mary W

    For some odd reason, early in sobriety people just don’t understand we do not drink. I was offered O’Doul’s by my sister at a picnic. I told her that she didn’t have enough of them if I drank just one. I was never offered another drink ever again.

    Romancing the drink is old hat with us alkies. We think of only the good times and not the horrible ones when offered something new and different. I know, I have done it recently with things like chocolate martinis (I NEVER
    drank gin or martinis). I have to remember that my last drunk was me leaving my infant son somewhere else and going back to my house with my boyfriend. Thats why in my area we talk about remembering our last drunk.

    Thanks for sharing your experience, strength and hope on your sobriety.

  5. If it makes you feel any better, my first reaction to that beer flavor was “Ew.”
    I doubt you’re missing much. Barbecue-flavored beer just seems wrong to me.

    Proud of you for making the tough decision, which always ends up being the right one.

  6. 6 Mother Shaffer

    Glad you didn’t take the sip. I was worried for you for a minute there until I finished your post. Keep up the good work. Wish my parents had as much courage.

  7. Great post absolutely, I’ve had to refuse communions where they had real wine as it would have been intentional for me to ingest it, so great blog, amazing comments, thank you!

  8. 8 sobrietyorg

    I want to thank you for writing about this subject on this blog! I am an alcoholic whom has been through rehab twice and am discovering the beauty of sobriety.

    I have become a contributor to a great website called sobriety.org

    It is my hope that sobriety.org will become a focal point run by the sober community for the sober community. I look forward to hearing from many of you and developing this website into a powerful life saving tool, even if only for one or two people. Consider this site your community for a happy and sober life!


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