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Date and have fun while staying sober or drinking less

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Parties, weddings, comeback concerts and late catch-ups: the social calendar is back in full swing after nearly three years. pandemic-related lockdowns and restrictions.

For some, this renewed activity comes with pressure from friends to cut down on alcoholic beverages – a challenge if you’re trying to get sober, stay alcohol-free, or just drink less.

“The hardest part about not drinking is other people’s perceptions of it,” said Millie Gooch, founder of the Sober Girls Society and author of “The Sober Girl Society Handbook.” She quit drinking more than four years ago. “I got it so much, ‘Oh, you’re gonna be boring now.'” I still get it from time to time.

Gooch is part of a growing moderation movement. Her UK-based group aims to support young women who want to stay sober or drink less with practical advice on how to socialize, go out and have fun without a cocktail in hand. He organizes non-alcoholic brunches and other get-togethers.

“I was a sober disgrace myself, and that was a reflection of my own drinking,” Gooch said. “I wanted everyone to drink.”

No amount of alcohol is healthy if you are under 40, mainly due to alcohol-related deaths from car accidents, injuries and homicides, according to a study released in July. CNN spoke to Gooch, who shared his tips for rethinking your relationship with alcohol.

The following conversation has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

CNN: Why did you write “The Sober Girl Society Handbook”?

Millie Gooch: I was six months and 27 years old. I couldn’t find any support around the issue that affected me. I had a preconceived idea that AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) was going to be full of 50-year-old men. I felt like a lot of the books on the subject were obviously aimed at people in their 40s or were talking about real alcoholism at its lowest, but not the in-between stages. They talked about how they got sober, but didn’t focus on what you do after that. I really couldn’t find anything practical. How to go on a date while sober? How do you get to a wedding?

These are the main things I write about in the book. It contains a bit of my story, but also self-help and resources. It’s about how you go out and live as a person in a world where alcohol is so normalized and you don’t drink it.

CNN: Why did you decide to quit alcohol?

Gosh: I really started drinking when I went to college, and my drinking was very party, binge, black-out drinking, which I took with me when I went to (PR ) and journalism.

When I drank, I always found myself in really dangerous and vulnerable situations. I was waking up in places I didn’t want to be – I had this crippling fear the next day of wondering what I had said and what I had done.

I wasn’t really a daily drinker. I went out every other week, maybe a few weeknights. The reason I quit drinking was mainly for my mental health. I would feel really anxious.

CNN: What was it like to be sober?

Gosh: When I quit drinking, I discovered that I had no idea how to deal with my emotions. I think whenever I was stressed or heartbroken, I was like I was going to go out and get really drunk. So I had all these feelings. It was really overwhelming. To understand why I felt the need to drink, I consulted a therapist.

When you consume alcohol, it gives you a synthetic confidence that wears off the next day – you don’t really have it. I had to get out of my comfort zone, let go and meet people. It helped me build a real innate confidence that kind of stayed with me.

CNN: What advice do you have for someone who wants to drink less?

Gosh: Many of us drink mindlessly. Understand why you drink. Is it because you are happy and want to party? Or do you drink because you’re stressed and don’t want to deal with the emotion in question? Is there anything else you could do like go for a walk or take a bath?

There are lots of resources out there. You can follow sober accounts, dividing up your Instagram feed so it’s not just a constant stream of brunch and boozy parties.

Be honest about how many units (drinks) you drink. There are many good apps. (She recommended one called Try dry.)

The Sober Girl Society is part of a growing moderation movement.

CNN: How do you deal with peer pressure around drinking?

Gosh: Have an honest conversation. Don’t lie and say you need to take antibiotics or (have to) drive home. People will say, “Oh, you can drink from it” or “We’ll pick up your car tomorrow morning.” I would say something like, “Look, drinking makes me really unhappy. I’m not sure this will last forever, but I’m trying to narrow it down and would really appreciate your support.

When it comes to not wanting to go on a huge round of drinks, just say, “Actually, do you mind if I skip the round tonight? “I just want to have a few drinks. I really look at my relationship with alcohol.

Stand in front of the mirror and practice and get comfortable saying these things before you go out if you need to, even texting people before. I used to walk into the WhatsApp group and say, “Just so you girls know, I’m not drinking tonight.” Because then they kind of have time to recover.

CNN: What’s your advice for a sober date?

Gosh: Pump yourself up before you go out. A playlist is always good. And be sure to get rid of any nervous energy, for example by running before going out.

Always go somewhere you find comfortable – maybe check to see if they have good soft drinks. I like being able to order a mocktail which feels sophisticated rather than being like, “I’m going to have a… Diet Coke, please.”

There shouldn’t be any judgment on this, but sometimes there is. I found that if I just told people ahead of time, it gave them the opportunity to decide if they wanted to date me. I think it’s just better to get him out. If people are funny about it, then that’s not the kind of person you want to be with anyway.

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