By Millie Gooch
Just over three years ago, I decided to stop consuming alcohol. It sounds easy but it wasn’t.
In theory though, it should have been easy. I wasn’t an everyday alcohol user, I didn’t always think about consuming alcohol and I could quite happily have let a few weeks fly by with only Diet Coke having passed my lips.
The reason it wasn’t easy was because I was 26-years-old and I was a woman working in magazine journalism. This meant that if I wasn’t indulging in Wine Wednesday’s with my colleagues then I was downing Bellini’s at bottomless brunch, celebrating raucous hen parties with prosecco and commiserating my recent break-up the only way I’d ever been taught how to – by getting absolutely drunk. Consuming alcohol wasn’t just something I liked doing, it was something I was expected to do.
My love affair with alcohol was short but action-packed, starting at the age of eighteen when I shimmied off to university to study English and ending 8 years later after a series of blackouts, 3-day hangovers and my rapidly declining mental health which took a significant nosedive every morning after a night of heavy alcohol consumption.
Looking for sober inspiration
In 2018, when I finally decided enough was enough, I started looking into what support was available to me. As a young, anxiety-ridden binge-drinker, I didn’t feel that my ‘problem drinking’ would be considered ‘severe’ enough for AA and so I turned to the internet to find an alternative option.
Whilst I certainly came across a few helpful Instagram pages and community groups online, I really struggled to find anything that I wholeheartedly identified with. Most of the groups used loaded words like ‘alcoholic’ or ‘addict’ and anything aimed at supporting women seemed to focus on an older demographic.
There also seemed to be a strange emphasis on the idea of reaching a ‘rock-bottom’ and whilst seeing stories from those who had lost everything should have been a great deterrent for me to stop using alcohol, it actually seemed to serve (at least in my mind) as an excuse for why I should continue – because I wasn’t that bad. I couldn’t see myself in any of the stories I’d read and often started to think that I was the only person under the age of thirty who’s alcohol consumption made them depressed and anxious.
More than all of this though, I found everything which talked about sobriety relatively bleak. The colour schemes were dark, the language warning and the most common topics of discussion seemed to be “How to say no to social occasions” and “How to leave the party early”, things that for a 26-year-old who’s life revolved around networking parties and going out with her friends seemed both impractical and frankly rather daunting.
Making change happen: the launch of Sober Girl Society
Nowhere could I find a space offering tips on how to tackle a night out sober, how to pluck-up the courage to go on a date that didn’t involve alcohol or how to maintain a social life whilst being alcohol-free. So, with a basic knowledge of Instagram I started Sober Girl Society – a space for millennial women to share inspiration, wisdom and celebrate being hangover-free. The initial purpose was to connect as many people as possible because I didn’t want anyone to feel the way I did when I started scouring the internet for women like me.
Everyone can be a little happier by reducing or eliminating alcohol from their lives.”Millie Gooch, author, The Sober Girl Society Handbook
As my sobriety journey continued, I started to observe things that I hadn’t really noticed when I was consuming alcohol. I started asking questions like: why is it so hard to find a greetings card that doesn’t reference booze? Why is alcohol rarely mentioned when we talk about mental health and why do we have such a romantic idea that alcohol makes us sexy and empowered when often – it’s quite the opposite. But rather than just asking myself these questions, I asked doctors and experts and therapists and the CEOs of alcohol charities. I even asked Kristina Sperkova! Then I put it all in a book.
A handbook to change the alcohol narrative
The book has four main aims. The first is to normalise not drinking alcohol. To make it socially acceptable to turn down an alcoholic drink and not have your motives questioned but also, to make it normal to question your relationship with alcohol before hitting the mystical rock-bottom. The second is to offer support. The book is practical and covers everything from cravings to tackling a sober wedding, it’s packed full of stories from other sober women and resources to look into after. It features helplines and an A-Z directory of further Quit Lit reading. The third aim is to educate – to help women understand what alcohol is, what it really does to our body and mind and why some of the things we believe about alcohol are incorrect. The last aim is to advocate. There is a whole chapter on how we can reduce the harms of alcohol, not just for ourselves but for others too.
I hope the book will show young women that they can take back their power from alcohol at any time, that anything they think alcohol gives them is already inside of them…”Millie Gooch, author, The Sober Girl Society Handbook
I truly believe that everyone can be a little happier by reducing or eliminating alcohol from their lives and I hope the book will show young women that they can take back their power from alcohol at any time, that anything they think alcohol gives them is already inside of them and that they can still lead a wonderful, sociable life without booze.
About Our Guest Expert
Millie Gooch is a writer, speaker, activist and founder of Sober Girl Society.
Millie is the author of the bestseller “The Sober Girl Society Handbook”.
On the February 11, 2018, Millie decided to quit alcohol after years of binge alcohol consumption and hangovers had begun to affect her mental health. Seven months later in September 2018, she founded Sober Girl Society, an Instagram-based and real-life community of women who are ditching the booze for their own reasons.
Sober Girl Society has since grown into an 128K strong community. Millie hosts SGS’s signature boozeless brunches and sober sweat classes across the UK and works with organizations including universities to encourage sober curiosity and spread the message that being alcohol-free is exciting and rewarding.
The Sober Girl Society Handbook: An empowering guide to living hangover free
Millie’s book is now out!