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Knowledge, Eat, Sleep, Drink, Drink

The Sober Girls Society

Changing Conversations

“if Brad Pitt can go to the Oscars and do it without drinking, maybe I can go to my friends 21st birthday without drinking”
Sober Girl Society Book

Millie Gooch set up Sober Girls Society back in 2018 when she was seven months into her teetotal journey. Since then, the community for young women to discuss sobriety or sober-curiosity has skyrocketed, with 183K followers on social media. I got in touch with Millie to learn more…

You said you were motivated to start SGS because there was no other platform you could find like it; do you think that was due to a lack of a conversation?

Compared to five years ago when I first stopped drinking it’s become much more open. Before, it was Alcoholics Anonymous or nothing and that’s not really a network as the whole point of it is, obviously, anonymity. So, no one was really talking about it. I think as the mental health conversation has widened over the past few years so has the conversation around alcohol.

People might think that the only reason for sobriety is because you’ve hit rock bottom, but it could just be because you want a lifestyle change. 

Definitely, and I think that conversation has also changed; we're now acknowledging there is this grey area in between ‘alcohol-dependent rock bottom’ and ‘casual drinking’. There are people who want help but don't necessarily think they’re at the level where it’s ruined their life. That’s one of the things we want to get across – that you can stop drinking before it’s too late. We don’t wait until someone’s lung has collapsed to tell them to stop smoking, we know it's bad for us, so we quit before it gets bad, whereas with alcohol people have this narrative of, ‘oh it’s fine, you’re not that bad’. It’s about changing conversations. Alcohol can be a valid problem in your life without looking like the alcohol problem people think of, and you can consider at least cutting down or removing it completely. 

As you did back in 2018. What do you think is the biggest difference you've noticed since the lifestyle change? 

Mental health was my main motivator for stopping. It sounds like I’ve joined a cult but every part of my life has become better by not drinking, whether that’s my finances, relationships, or physical health. It’s not like a magic mental health wand where you stop drinking and your life is amazing, but for me it allowed me to address a lot of the reasons why I was drinking because so many of us don’t. I was drinking for confidence – I had really bad anxiety, and drinking was the only thing that cheered me up. Over the past few years, I have really tackled these things in a much healthier way and because of that my mental health has become much more resilient. 

Where would you recommend for low or no-alcohol alternatives when you’re eating out? 

You know what, there are so many good ones coming up now, I feel really lucky because when I first stopped drinking, it was so hard to find good alcohol-free stuff. We do a lot of work with Pho, the Vietnamese restaurant, and they approached us with this great low-and-no menu so that’s a great partnership. They have a really good selection of different alcohol-free cocktails, faux gin and tonics and alcohol-free beer so if we’re talking chains, they’re really good. I also think Zizi is really good for a chain, and Pizza Express have a few good ones, but I think they need a few more, I would love to see more restaurants with alcohol-free wine. A lot of them do the cocktails and the beers but not many seem to do the wines or the spirits. There are so many things now like alcohol-free whiskey and alcohol-free rum – the possibilities are endless so it would be nice to see as many drinks on the alcohol-free menu as the alcoholic one. 

You suggest people search up high profile figures who are sober as motivation. Did you have someone who you were inspired by?

Just a slight inspiration in the mainstream can be really helpful. When I first stopped drinking I read The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober by Catherine Gray and I just absolutely loved her: her life really mirrored mine and she even used to work in the same building that I used to work in as a journalist. She became my ultimate sober icon. I think it brings the conversation into the mainstream to find your own sober icon and just gives it that…not cooler edge, but people go, ‘oh, if Brad Pitt can go to the Oscars and do it without drinking, maybe I can go to my friends 21st birthday without drinking.”

What would you say to those who might claim being sober is boring? 

First of all, it’s about interrogating what you think boring is, because it’s really subjective. Then, think about the life you’re leading now and how much diversity there is to it, because when I look back – don’t get me wrong, I was having fun – but I was doing the same thing week in, week out. Going to the same bars with the same people, drinking too much to really remember much of my night, then waking up spending my whole weekend hungover. It just became so repetitive and so boring. Now though, the number of different things I do and the different people I meet and the fun experiences that I have are different and diverse – so not boring. Finally, you have to consider why would you be bothered if someone thinks you’re boring; maybe you really care what people think and that’s something you need to look at. 

What’s on the horizon for you and Sober Girls Society?

For Sober Girls Society, we are hoping to get more and more events up and down the country. At the moment, we mainly reach the bigger cities, like London and Manchester, but next year I would really like to get across the country because we're always being asked to. For me personally, I’m actually launching a non-alcoholic e-commerce store which is in the works at the moment; it’s going to be like Asos but for non-alcoholic drinks. It’s totally out of my comfort zone and I know nothing about business really – I come from a creative background – so I’m just learning that as I go. I think it’s going to be really fun because at the moment there aren't many hubs for places to get alcohol-free drinks. Hopefully, this will provide more choice and help promote curiosity about the category. 

What are you optimistic about for 2023? so

I am optimistic that this conversation will only continue. Over the last few years, we’ve really seen a boom in alcohol-free drinks and people coming to the platform so I’m really optimistic that this conversation is going to be normalised and that saying ‘I’m not drinking for a night’ or ‘I’m taking a week off’ will hopefully be as normal as saying ‘I’m not smoking.’

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