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inspirational people sobriety

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
Categories
conscious living mental health self care sobriety

Mental Health Benefits Of Being Alcohol-Free

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It’s a fact: alcohol is everywhere.

No matter where you go, there it is.  Every restaurant you walk into, and at every celebration, you best believe there’s an opportunity to indulge in an alcoholic beverage.  It doesn’t take much thought- drinking is a huge part of everyday culture.  It’s expected, and in fact, it can even be confusing to people when you tell them you don’t drink.

But do you ever stop and think how alcohol affects your brain

On a sunny Saturday, probably not.

As I walked through the Greenway in Boston the other day (one of my favorite urban gems), I passed not one, but two areas designated for outdoor boozing.  Then, a couple of days later, I passed a beer garden in the Charles River Esplanade.

I used to absolutely love these opportunities.

However, as an ex-drinker, my days of beer gardens and brunch always began much happier than they ended- in fact, the mere idea of drinking was always better than the actual consumption.

For over 15 years, little did I know that I was quite literally drinking a depressant.

While drinking, I was snappy, agitated, and impatient.  I was anything but mindful, always awaiting what was next- the next drink, the next bar, the next thrill.

Over the years I’ve realized that my drinking was directly linked to my mental health.  Mental health is just as important as recognizing a physical problem.  Anxiety, depression, and PTSD are serious health conditions that can be just, if not more, crippling as a physical disease.

For me, my anxiety and PTSD are heightened when I consume just one alcoholic drink.  I used to think something was seriously wrong with me.  I would wake up in the morning feeling empty.  I was nervous about the people around me.

Then, when I stopped drinking, those nervous feelings stopped.

I’m not alone.  Millie from Sober Girl Society (one of my favorite Instagram accounts) shared with The Telegraph:

“I knew quite early on that hangovers affected me mentally just as much as they did physically. I’d wake up feeling on edge, like I’d done something wrong or upset someone – even though my friends all told me I’d been perfectly well behaved. Towards my late twenties, even just having a glass of champagne would make me feel uncomfortable and uneasy. Hangover anxiety began to permeate my everyday life. I lost all confidence, motivation, and some hangovers even left me bedridden; not because I was sick or tired but because my mind had gone into overdrive and I was sweating and shaking in panic.”

Our society is quick to provide “quick fixes” for mental health, including medication, material gratification, or even more alcohol to calm the nerves. Having a drink after work or popping a Xanax probably isn’t the answer for long-lasting change, but I can say from experience that meditation, spending time in nature, exercise, and- gasp- abstinence from alcohol- have provided a solace in my soul better than any quick fix.

I’m confident these simple things can work for you, too.

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Categories
conscious living mental health mindfulness self discovery sobriety

Sober Vegetarian Cat Person

Dating is a funny thing.

Dating is awkward as it is, but it’s even more awkward when you’re sober.  I used to drown my discomfort in a glass of wine, telling stories my date couldn’t follow, but since moving to Boston in 2016, I’ve barely dated at all.

Well, compared to when I lived in New York City, that is.

Sure, I’ve met people in various ways- traveling back from NYC on the Megabus, substitute teaching, through recovery circles, and on an app here and there.  Each interaction lasted for a very short while, most likely because I detected their bullshit and realized I was something much different than what they created in their mind.

Next.

This morning I noticed that The Fix quoted me in their recent article, “Are You Ready To Date Sober?”  Ironically, I’ve been thinking about that question a lot lately.

My default answer the past year or so has been “I’m not interested in dating anyone at all.”  That’s actually not true, though.  I would be interested in dating someone- but only if they were interested in a sober vegetarian cat person.

I’m done with pretending I am someone I am not.

I’m also done with changing for someone, switching my views, or doing things I’m uncomfortable with doing- and I’m certainly not going to pick up a drink just to make you feel more comfortable.

Part of recovery is learning to love and accept yourself for who you are- loving yourself for what your heart says, not the world around you.  Despite being someone who prefers to stay in on a Friday night, sautéing up vegetables while drinking a seltzer, I’m confident there’s a lid to every pot…

and mine will be here when I’m ready.

Categories
authenticity mental health mindfulness self care self discovery sobriety

Not So Glamorous

Marcel Broodthaers Preview at MoMA in New York, 2016

I can’t lie- I loved drinking.  It did something to me that made me feel invincible, interesting, and sophisticated.  Little did I know, it actually did quite the opposite.

As much as I loved a rooftop bar, museum opening, or fashion event, I also loved a good dive- and all the debauchery it brought.

If I hadn’t loved drinking (or at least the chaotic lifestyle), I wouldn’t have gone back to it repeatedly despite the negative effects it had on my life, my relationships, my sanity, and my health.

People suggest, “just have one!” yet quickly realize I do terrible, uncharacteristic things after one- because one always leads to eleven or twelve.

As I began to grow spiritually, I realized alcohol didn’t have the same place in my life.  It blocked my intuition, my connection to my higher self, and stripped me of all my inner peace.  Alcohol leaves me wanting more, hopelessly aware of the emptiness inside of me that a healthy spiritual condition fills.

Do I wish I was that person who could just have one?  Of course.  I never would, and I never will, though.  I’ve accepted that reality.

Instead of drinking to fit in or make others around me feel more comfortable, I’m happy with my carbonated water or Diet Coke today.  It certainly helps me remain centered, mindful, and grateful for the moment.

Categories
empowerment mental health sobriety

Love Yourself: The Importance of Speaking Your Truth

“Being yourself ” today can be a scary thing in a world of so many mixed messages, expectations, fear mongering, and marketing.  Just when it feels safe to speak up or “be yourself,” someone seems to shoot you down or makes you second guess that “you” you’ve been striving to embody.

Well, I’ve finally shed the final few things that have been holding me back from being my authentic self.  For me, the most important element of being “Kristin” is simple: it is speaking my truth.

I need to be in an environment where it is safe to surround myself with people who allow me to speak my truth and can benefit from my stories.

As I feel safer and safer to share my story and speak my truth on a daily basis, the easier life has become- and the more I have been able to be of service to others.

As some of you know, I have been sober on-and-off since April 8th, 2011.

I’ve never publicly written about this before in fear of being both isolated or grouped together with other “sober people.”  I don’t identify with any group, religion, or title- nor will I.  I’ve tried it, and it didn’t work.  You will never label Kristin or put her in a box.

Today, I am simply “Kristin, and I’ll take a coffee.”

My reasons today for not drinking are different than they were a few years, or even months, ago.  I used to say, “bad things happen when I drink,” or “my body can’t handle it.”  I used to make excuses, such as “I’m on medication” or “I’m on a diet,” but today, my answer is simple:

“I’m fine as I am.”

Over my seven years of sobriety, relapses, periods of thinking I was “normal,” and drinking for pure self-sabotage, I found one common theme:

I drank when I thought I couldn’t be myself.

Being “myself” used to be a scary thing.  I used to water myself down, drink away my thoughts, and numb out my emotions.  I used to fear my imagination.  My creativity used to scare me.  I was told “creatives are flaky” or “artists starve.”  Again, that’s society’s stereotype, their lack of understanding, and their inability to think, create, or live on their own.

I get by just fine doing things my way.  I tried to fit in their box, and it didn’t work- time and time again.  So, with a clear mind and a lot of lessons under my belt, I’ll try the alternatives and create on my own.

Don’t listen to the others if their way doesn’t work for you. 

Keep doing you.  Keep speaking your truth.  Your niche will find you.

Today, I wouldn’t want to water down any message; I want to be my authentic self to share my experience and strength with others.

I am happy to share that I finally love being myself- and I’ll do my best to help you love yourself, too.

If you think you have a problem a problem with drinking or need someone to talk to, please feel free to send me a message. You are never alone: kristinfehrman@gmail.com