To back up: I haven't had alcohol for almost 7 months. I don't have cravings, and the occasional pull to drink feels mostly like a fleeting nostalgia--I don't pay it much heed, and it passes quickly.
But I had heard people talk about alcohol-free wine, and I wondered whether it was any good. I also wanted to see whether sharing a bottle of it would have any of what I remember as the pleasure of sharing a bottle of wine--the romance of sitting at a lovely dinner sipping wine and talking, not the guzzling wine alone late into the evening thing, which I'm glad to be done with. (I know the wine and romance thing is a big myth, but myths aren't all bad, and I was curious.)
My partner--who still drinks, though not a lot--was game to try it. We settled on a Spanish cava-style bottle that said "alcohol free" and "0.0%" on the label, and we kept our hopes in check. As it turned out, the fake wine wasn't very good. It was way too sweet, a bit like the Baby Duck my family used to drink at Christmas when I was a kid. But as it was a fizzy wine, once it was opened it wouldn't keep, so we drank it, easily agreeing that our usual soda/lemon/bitters concoction was much better. It was an experiment we wouldn't repeat.
But here's the weird part. As I was sipping the the last little bit, I felt a little strange. First I tried to dismiss it as my imagination. Then I started to wonder whether there was something about the moment that really was like drinking wine, in a way that was somehow different from our usual drinking sparkling water out of wine glasses. But it didn't make sense to me, and my partner wasn't getting it. And then I started to sense an all too familiar feeling--I was happy and relaxed, and I knew I'd have a little more after all if there was any left in the bottle. So I looked at the label again, and yes, it said 0.0% alcohol, but on the back of the bottle, in very small print, it also said, "Contains less than 0.4% alcohol." That's not quite zero. Even with the tiny amount of alcohol in that "alcohol-free" wine, it seems I could feel it.
I'm so absolutely surprised! I would have scoffed at the idea that such a tiny amount of alcohol would cause any reaction. I've had desserts with a drop of booze in them, and I use bitters in my fizzy water and cook with wine all the time. I'm no purist. But this was different. And I didn't like it. I was horrified that, even while agreeing that it didn't taste good, I was starting to get a little inkling of wanting more. It was just a trace of that old familiar feeling, but it was there, and I want absolutely nothing to do with that, ever again. I'm not much given to certainties, but I'm sure about that!
This was a valuable lesson to me. I know lots of people who quit the booze drink alcohol-free drinks, and I think we're all going to react differently to them, so I don't expect everyone would feel the same. And yes, someone might say, maybe it wasn't the trace amount of alcohol that affected me. Maybe it was psychological. I don't know. Alcohol is a powerful drug, but minds are powerful, too. I don't much care which it is. I won't try that again. And I'll be careful to read the fine print next time I see something that claims to be free!
Peace and love and sparkly days to you all.( *And thanks to Tom Waits for my post title. Peace and love to you too, Tom!)