Mocktails, Sobriety, and Child Custody: A Discussion Around Commitment

Mother and daughter pretending to have a tea party
January 19, 2021
|   updated:
July 12, 2023

For many people who struggle with alcohol abuse, preventing the urge to drink demands more than simply avoiding alcohol — It also requires a conscious effort not to participate in drinking culture.

Drinking culture is a societal norm demonstrated in events, social behaviors, and traditions that revolve around alcohol consumption, and it is practiced across the world. In the U.S., it’s common for co-workers to go out for a drink at the end of a workday, casinos typically serve free drinks to patrons, and many weddings offer open bars. These are all prominent examples of our country’s drinking culture.

Drinking culture creates environments where alcohol consumption is the norm — even expected. This can pressure people to drink more regularly and heavily and may increase the risk of alcohol-related health issues, dangerous behaviors, and alcohol abuse.

For co-parents, participating in drinking culture can be a slippery slope to creating a dangerous environment for their children or losing an ex-spouse’s trust. While it is possible not to drink while at a bar with friends or an event with free alcohol, participating in drinking culture increases the likelihood of temptation and may communicate the wrong message to those Concerned Parties.

What are Mocktails?

Non-alcoholic drinks — commonly referred to as mocktails — have grown in popularity in recent years. Alongside the rise of mixology (the practice of mixing premium cocktails), alcohol-free mixed drinks incorporating juices, syrups, and garnishes have also become commonplace in bars, private events, and even home.

Mocktails are specifically marketed to those who choose to avoid alcohol and are intended to allow people to stay sober in environments where drinking is the norm. This can be a healthy alternative for temporarily steering clear of alcohol but may be a slippery slope for individuals struggling to maintain sobriety.

While the rise of non-alcoholic beverage options available at social events may seem like a positive development, these seemingly innocent cocktail substitutes may be triggering for those in alcohol recovery, particularly those in early recovery.

Mocktails’ Role in Sobriety and Early Recovery

Bartender handing mocktails to young children and mother

At a glance, it may appear as though mocktails can play a beneficial role in sobriety. They offer more non-alcoholic beverage options for those in recovery and seamlessly take the place of their boozy counterpart. But in reality, mocktails may actually open the door between sobriety and relapse. Because the experience of consuming mocktails is so similar to drinking alcoholic cocktails, they can be a trigger for addiction. For this reason, drinking mocktails and other alcohol-free beverages that mimic beer or wine is not advised for those in early recovery. It’s typically best for those in the early stages of sobriety to disengage from drinking culture. This will not only help prevent relapse, but it can also improve trust-building.

Child Custody and Drinking Culture

Mother and son drinking delicious milkshakes in cafe

One of the most obvious ways to disengage from drinking culture is to avoid situations where alcohol consumption is commonplace. For example, a person may choose to turn down invitations to meet friends at a bar and offer an alternative activity where alcohol won’t be present. However, it’s important to understand that genuinely resisting drinking culture requires more than just avoiding establishments that serve alcohol — it may also demand a lifestyle change at home.

Many people who abuse alcohol have to establish a new routine during recovery. For those who were once accustomed to having a drink at a certain time of day, it may be easiest to supplement that drink with an alcohol-free beverage rather than establish a new habit. Unfortunately, this may not do enough to disrupt destructive behaviors and can be anxiety-inducing for children observing their parent’s behavior.

Excessive drinking commonly causes damage to our closest relationships, and making visible lifestyle shifts is essential for rebuilding trust, especially for parents in recovery. Children are very perceptive and likely to pick up on behaviors that may indicate that their parent is drinking again. For this reason, mocktails can communicate the wrong message and may even lead to issues with maintaining child custody due to alcohol. Even if the children are older, one should never assume that their kids understand the difference between alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. To remain consistent, all measures should be taken to demonstrate your dedication to sobriety.

As another way to prove your sobriety, and rebuild trust in your relationships, use an alcohol monitoring system. Soberlink is a professional-grade breathalyzer with wireless connectivity that documents sobriety in real-time through remote testing. With documented proof of sobriety, the potential for confusion and hearsay is eliminated, allowing those in recovery to more easily reestablish bonds with loved ones and maintain child custody.


Drinking is a prevalent part of our culture in the United States, and many social situations revolve around alcohol consumption. It’s important for those in early recovery to create firm boundaries with alcohol by avoiding gatherings and events where drinking is encouraged. Remember: It’s not enough to simply swap out an alcoholic beverage for a mocktail — It’s also important to establish brand new habits. These lifestyle adjustments will not only help prevent relapse — they’ll show your children and loved ones your determination for change.

For parents in recovery, sobriety must be more than just an inward shift: It must be demonstrated. By providing proof of sobriety with Soberlink’s alcohol testing device and avoiding behaviors that may confuse children (like drinking mocktails), you’ll be able to rebuild trust in your relationships. Give your loved ones the peace of mind they need to trust the changes you’re making and make a conscious effort to discontinue any behaviors that may be misconstrued as a relapse.

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