(CNN)Backyard barbecues, summer weddings, back-on-again festivals and overdue catch-ups: The social calendar is back in full swing after more than two years of pandemic-related lockdowns and restrictions.
At 27, she wrote a book on how to enjoy life without the thing people think they need to have fun
For some, this renewed activity comes with pressure from friends to knock back alcoholic drinks -- a challenge if you're trying to go sober, stay alcohol-free or simply drink less.
"The hardest part about not drinking is other people's perceptions about it," said Millie Gooch, 30, founder of the Sober Girl Society and author of "The Sober Girl Society Handbook." She gave up drinking over four years ago. "I got so much: 'Oh you're going to be boring now.' I still get it now and then."
Gooch is part of a growing moderation movement. Her group, based in the United Kingdom, aims to support young women who want to stay sober or drink less with practical advice about how to socialize, date and have fun without a cocktail in hand. It holds booze-free brunches and other meetups.
"I myself was a sober shamer, and that was a reflection of my own drinking," Gooch said. "I wanted everyone else to be drinking."
No amount of alcohol is healthy if you're under 40, mostly due to alcohol-related deaths by auto accidents, injury and homicide, according to a study released July 14. CNN talked to Gooch, who shared her tips for how to rethink 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 sober and 27 years old. I couldn't find any support around the issue that resonated with me. I had a preconception that AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) was going to be full of 50-year-old men. I felt like a lot of the books on the topic were aimed obviously at people in their 40s or they were about real, rock bottom, alcoholism but not about the in between stages. They talked about how they got sober but didn't concentrate on what you do after that. I really couldn't find anything that was practical. How do you go on a date while sober? How do you go to a wedding?
They were the main things that I write about in the book. It's got a little bit of my story but also some self-help and resources. It's about how you actually 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 give up alcohol?
Gooch: I really started drinking when I went to university, and my drinking was very party girl, binge, blackout drinking, which is something I took with me when I went into PR and journalism.
When I drank, I was always getting myself into really dangerous and vulnerable situations. I was waking up in places I didn't want to be -- having that crippling fear the next day of wondering what did I say and what did I do.
I wasn't really a daily drinker. I was going out every couple of weeks, perhaps the odd weeknight. The reason that I stopped drinking was primarily for my mental health. I would feel really anxious.
CNN: What was it like to go sober?
Gooch: I found one of the things when I stopped drinking was that I actually didn't really have any idea how to deal with my emotions. I think every time I was stressed or heartbroken I was like I'm going to go out and get really drunk. So then I had all these feelings. It was really overwhelming. To get to the root cause of why I was feeling the need to drink, I did see a therapist.
When you use alcohol, it gives you a synthetic confidence that dissipates the next day -- you don't really have it. I've had to push myself out of my comfort zone, to let go and meet people. That helped me build up a real innate confidence that's kind of stayed with me.
CNN: What advice do you have for someone who wants to drink less?
Gooch: So many of us drink mindlessly. Understand why you drink. Is it because you're happy and want to celebrate? Or are you drinking because you're stressed and don't want to deal with the emotion in question? Is there something else you could do like go for a walk or have a bath?
There are lot of resources out there. You can follow sober accounts, breaking up your Instagram feed so it's not just one constant stream of boozy brunches and nights out.
Be honest about the number of units (drinks) you are drinking. There are lots of good apps. (She recommended one called Try Dry.)
CNN: How do you deal with the peer pressure around drinking?
Gooch: Have an honest conversation. Don't lie about having to take antibiotics or (having to) drive home. People will say, "Oh, you can drink on them," or "We'll pick your car up in the morning." I'd say something like, "Look, drinking is making me really unhappy. I'm not sure it's go