In 2018, Millie Gooch created The Sober Girl Society (SGS), an Instagram community for people who’ve chosen to quit or are thinking about quitting alcohol. With over 100k followers, SGS has struck a chord with sober and sober-curious millennials who’re no longer feeling the buzz around alcohol.
We spoke to Millie to find out how she manages being the UK’s leading sobriety voice and what to expect from her book ‘The Sober Girl Society Handbook’, which is out now.
Hi Millie! Thanks for chatting with us today. First things first, can you tell us a little bit about you?
My name is Millie, I started as a journalist and founded the Sober Girl Society in September 2018, when I was seven months sober. It grew beyond anything I’d ever anticipated – I thought it’d be just 10 of us chatting about nonalcoholic wine! I then got asked if I wanted to write ‘The Sober Girl Society Handbook’, which is where I’m at right now.
What does your content creation process consist of?
I’d like to say I have a structure – my aim for 2021 is to probably have more of a structure. A lot of content is inspired by what I’ve seen in the news about alcohol, sobriety or topics that I can see that people are talking about. I also get a lot of DMs. People will be like ‘can you talk about this’, or, ‘hey, I saw this article, I don’t know if you’ve seen it…’ With SGS, I have to get a lot of the content illustrated beforehand so I have to sit down and think about what I want to do. We’ve got the most fantastic illustrator Becky (@beckiebeans), who is just amazing. I will send her the weirdest concepts, like a brain dump on the page… And she just gets it done!
As you have a public personal Instagram account as well as SGS, you’re very accessible to people. Do you find you need to maintain boundaries online?
I mean, it’s a strange one, because 97% of people are so respectful, lovely, and really nice. I also have a thing where I really want to get back to everyone, which I know, as things grow is going to be harder and harder. I feel like if someone’s taken the time to message me, the least I can do is acknowledge that. It’s just when you get like the odd comment or troll or, I mean, I had a sugar daddy request this week, I sent it to my boyfriend (as a joke) like ‘I’m thinking about taking this opportunity…’
Love it! Right we’ve got a question from one of Debut’s readers here: What was your motivation for starting SGS?
I didn’t know anyone who was sober when I stopped drinking. A lot of what I found on social media was very US-centric and I couldn’t find anything for millennial British women who were still going out and still partying. When I set up SGS, I was working as a journalist so I was going out to parties, and I didn’t want to be antisocial. I couldn’t find anything that reflected my experiences of sobriety and showed you that you could still go out and have a good time. And I just thought, well, it’s not out there, I vaguely know how to use Instagram, I’ll start it myself.
What would your advice be for people who are curious about trying sobriety?
Educating yourself is key: read some quit lit, listen to sobriety podcasts. In terms of mindful drinking I’d recommend really analysing why you’re drinking. If you’re doing it because you’re stressed or upset, that’s how you develop unhealthy coping mechanisms. The next time you’re stressed, you think, ‘Well alcohol helps me de-stress’ and then your tolerance builds. And then your addiction builds.
Another reader question here, how long did it take for you to feel positive changes due to sobriety?
At first, I thought sobriety was amazing. I was like ‘I’ve actually got a Sunday morning!’ And then four or five months down the line, I basically had a mental breakdown. As drinking used to be my form of escapism, I suddenly had all these emotions that I couldn’t process. I was forced to sit with my feelings and understand what was actually going on in my brain, enabling me to regulate my emotions without drinking. That really changed me as a person, as well as creating a newfound love for sobriety
Was there a particular experience that put you off drinking?
I once woke up with absolutely no recollection of the night before, aside from my friends putting me in an Uber. I kept having weird flashbacks to being on this street corner near a car park, so I looked at my Uber journey on my phone and saw that my journey had been cancelled halfway through. I used Google Street Maps to see where the journey was cancelled and saw the exact street corner from my flashback. To this day, I don’t know how I got back from that street corner in central London to my home in Kent. I had no cash, no transactions on my Debit card and it was way too far to walk. It still terrifies me to think about what could’ve happened to me that night.
What would be your advice to someone who’s thinking of creating a digital brand or an online community?
The first thing I’d say is just do it. I was definitely not qualified to do it! Research is important too. Research was quite easy for me because there wasn’t anything out there like SGS yet. You also have to know your niche. If you’re a sober account, maybe you want to target sober people in Leeds, or just sober women, or those doing a six month challenge. Another thing is to be really honest and authentic. I could have gone into SGS saying I’d been through a catastrophic rock bottom but instead I just said, “Look, I don’t know what I’m going to call myself but I’m a binge drinker who struggles with my mental health due to alcohol. You know, I’m really suffering from anxiety, but I can also go a week without drinking if I want to.” Just by telling your own story, you’re always going to get at least one person who resonates. Tell your story and not the story you think people want to hear.
How have you used social media to your brand’s advantage?
So when I first started SGS, I needed money to fund our events. I started selling badges but didn’t really sell that many. And I just thought, I’m going to reach out to a couple of celebrities and see how that goes. Within a week, I had Denise Welch and Lisa Riley all posting pictures of them wearing the badges, which really helped me reach a wider audience.
You can buy The Sober Girl Society Handbook here.
Lucy is an English Literature and Law graduate. As well as editing for Debut, she’s written for Cosmopolitan UK, Grazia and London College of Style. She is particularly passionate about books, beauty and social justice, recognising their transformative impact in modern society.
Fave quote: ‘Tenderness is what love feels like in private. Justice is what love looks like in public’ – Dr Cornel West
“The creative industries are notoriously difficult to break into – now more than ever. I love working for Debut as we give unpublished writers, designers and PRs the opportunity to jump-start their portfolio; as well as releasing daily content that connects with women and non-binary people across the world.”