Booze-Free Bliss: A Conversation with Sober Girl Society’s Millie Gooch

Photo: Sober Girl Society

With 2020 around the corner, now’s the time to start thinking about New Year’s Eve plans, resolutions, and goals for what’s around the corner.

As I reflect on 2019, one of the major themes is how many amazing people I’ve connected with and gained inspiration from- especially other sober women.

One of those people is Millie Gooch, founder of Sober Girl Society. From her cheeky Instagram posts to those adorable enamel pins, Millie inspires other people to embrace their sobriety, one post, event, or booze-free beverage at a time.

I got the opportunity to ask her a few questions, from her own New Year’s Eve plans to how she decided to start Sober Girl Society (and yes, I am a proud member!).

When and why did you decide to put down the booze?

I’ve always had a very all-or-nothing relationship with alcohol. Blackout binge-drinking was my specialty because I never really saw the point in just having a couple. I could happily turn down a glass of wine at dinner but on a night out I’d be buying two triple-vodka Red Bulls and then mixing them into a pint glass.

Towards my mid-twenties I started to suffer with horrific anxiety (intensified by hangovers) and I began to realise that my one woman missions to get completey annihilated were becoming less about the party and more about a deep sense of self-loathing and unhappiness.

When I came out of a 6-year relationship at the start of 2018, my drinking escalated quickly in an attempt to patch up my heartbreak and in Feb 2018 on a particularly nasty hangover, something inside me snapped and I realised I could either continue in self-destruct mode or strap on my big girl pants and rebuild myself. To do this, I knew something had to seriously change and for me, that was my drinking.

I can completely relate to the “all or nothing” drinking. What tools did you use to help you stay sober when you first put down alcohol?

The first thing I did was listen to The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober by Catherine Gray on Audible and that was the motivational kick up the butt I needed. After that it was podcasts, finding new ways to relax (yoga, dancing, writing) and travelling.

How did you think of SGS?

I think it’s actually something I was trying to find for my own journey and just couldn’t so I decided to create it myself. Sobriety has made me a ‘see a problem, fix it’ kind of gal.

I was 7 months sober when I started SGS so I’d kind of already got past those initial stages and wanted something for the ‘what next’ to keep me motivated, hold me accountable and remind me why I stopped in the first place.

I always say SGS isn’t really about how to get sober because I’m not an expert but it’s more about staying sober and all the wonderful things that can happen when you are.

Millie Gooch

New Year’s Eve is coming up- what are your plans?

I’m actually at a wedding – 2 of the most difficult things in sobriety are weddings and New Year’s Eve – so I’m combining them because I do love a challenge.

How do you recommend other people stay sober on NYE?

Do things you actually like doing with people you actually like and if that means sitting at home alone watching season two of YOU on Netflix then do exactly that. More often than not I drank because I was anxious, unhappy, bored or because I thought it would make whatever I was doing, wherever I was or whoever I was with more fun.

I honestly believe it’s easier to say no to drinking when you’re happy and relaxed in your activity, company and surroundings.

Photo: Sober Girl Society

I’m really interested in these “booze free bars” and pop ups I am seeing in London. What can you tell me about them?

We are very lucky in London at the moment, pubs and bars are really recognising the demand for good alcohol-free drinks and some bars like Redemption (three venues across London) are completely alcohol-free. We also had Sainsbury’s (one of the biggest UK supermarkets) open a pop-up non-alcoholic pub called the Clean Vic (a pun on The Queen Vic from TV Programme Eastenders) in the summer and it was packed!

I’ve got my SGS pin to represent in the US! How can other women get involved?

Come follow us! At the moment we’re expanding our meet-ups across the UK but for those we can’t reach in other countries, we have threads where you can find your sober sisters.

There’s like countless friendships, a 30 strong group of women in Phoenix, meet-ups in Australia and a sober events company founded in Manchester because of those threads.

~

You connect with the Sober Girl Society community on Instagram and shop the goods on Etsy.

Photo: Sober Girl Society

Nothing Will Go Away Until It Teaches Us What We Need To Know

Running away from my problems used to be my favorite coping mechanism.

I can still fall prey to this old bad habit; I’ll hope people who bother me will disappear, or I will leave situations when I’m uncomfortable.  However, every time I do this the same people pop back up, and the same situations manifest in a different way… over and over again.

It’s a fact.

I could write about endless examples, but there’s one I have in mind which was so bitterly uncomfortable that I’m still surprised I got through it.  When I had a difficult roommate, I obviously thought the solution was to move.  To run away.  Despite receiving the silent treatment for weeks, I didn’t leave- and get this:

I was kind.

I still said “excuse me” when we would pass each other in the hallway, and I still tried to be considerate despite her obvious distaste for me.  Although I really had no idea what I had done wrong, I didn’t cower or run away- but I did later learn she had been secretly drinking.

It wasn’t even me that was the problem.

Old Kristin would have run away to avoid the feelings of rejection, discomfort, and anger- but New Kristin dealt with the situation, stuck to her guns, and now has a much better living situation because she stuck with it.

Completing things you started can be difficult- especially for someone like me who hates to be uncomfortable.  If you were to ask me in an interview today if I am a “team player,” I would probably stop lying and tell them I work best independently.  The truth is, I’m not a team player- I’m one of those kids who got frustrated in school and did the entire project themselves.  As a control freak and type-A person, I kept trying to do everything myself, over and over again, and do it MY way.

But those bad roommates will keep coming along, and so will team assignments.  It’s up to you to choose how to handle them today.

Maybe I do work best independently, and I look forward to the day I don’t have roommates anymore.  Nevertheless, as long as I remain teachable and willing to put down my ego and learn to live life differently than I used to, I’ll be just fine.

The Best Things in Life Are Free- Looking Within

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They say the best things in life are free, and from my experience, that is absolutely correct.

For years I looked everywhere I could to fill the void in my soul- I was addicted to shopping, I sought out approval from others, I moved from city to city, and I tried to slow down my brain by drinking excessively.

I went from bar to bar, boyfriend to boyfriend, job to job, and handbag to handbag- yet whatever I had was never enough.

Sitting still wasn’t even an option- and back then, I didn’t realize how amazing stillness could be.

When I started Mindful in Style, I had just left my fashion copywriter life in New York City.  I dated actors and Wall Street attorneys, bankers and startup entrepreneurs.  I mingled with designers and screenwriters, fellow fashion bloggers and alcoholics.  I justified my behavior by associating with people in the same circumstances as me, for better or for worse.

What I failed to do was look within to improve myself.

Battery Park, 2014. Photo by Rik Parker

I thought that if things looked okay on the outside, they must be fine on the inside.

I couldn’t have been more misguided.

Although I seemed to have everything, that hole in my soul was still as deep as ever.

What they don’t seem to teach you as you grow up is that life doesn’t have a “happiness” finish line or an invisible box to check in order to reach fulfillment.

Living a beautiful life doesn’t mean grandiosity, status, or material gains- living beautifully is about living in the now, embracing life’s simple pleasures, and making the most out of what is right in front of you.

My best days now are strolling through the city, enjoying my coffee by the river, or sitting quietly with the cat.  It’s the peace I have found within that makes my life so beautiful- and although I still enjoy a great handbag, true happiness is found in the mindful moments that I used to take for granted.