I was an absolute party girl — then I woke up and didn’t know where I was

'It was so hard to untangle the cycle.'

I was an absolute party girl — then I woke up and didn’t know where I was
Millie Gooch. Photo released October 23 2023. See SWNS story SWSMsober. A former
Millie started drinking when she first went to university(Picture: Millie Gooch / SWNS)

A former ‘party girl’ with constant ‘hangxiety’ says she’s happier than ever after going sober at 26. 

After starting university as a fresh-faced 18-year-old, Millie Gooch, now 32, found herself swept up by the UK university drinking culture. 

‘If I told people I wasn’t a drinker, I’d probably be seen as a loser,’ she said. ‘It would’ve been much harder to make friends.’

For many students, alcohol plays a huge part in university life. A survey by Students Organising for Sustainability (SOS) last year found that 81% of students thought that drinking and getting drunk was part of university culture and more than half (53%) drank more than once a week.

Millie wasn’t immune to this: In the space of a few months, she found herself going from having the odd WKD at a family gathering to binge drinking several nights per week, her drink of choice becoming ‘two triple vodka-and-Red-Bulls poured into a pint glass’.

Millie Gooch. Photo released October 23 2023. See SWNS story SWSMsober. A former
She found herself binge drinking regularly between the ages of 18 and 26 (Picture: Millie Gooch / SWNS)

After graduating from the University of Sussex in 2011, Millie’s drinking habit didn’t stop — in fact, it intensified. 

‘I worked in PR after uni, then became a magazine journalist,’ says Millie, from Kent, who now runs Sober Girl Society full-time.

‘It was an incredibly booze-heavy industry, there were tons of networking events.

‘It was just a perk of the job – free-alcohol Fridays, walking into events and instantly grabbing a glass of champagne off the tray.

‘And because it wasn’t a super corporate atmosphere, everyone was game to have a drink, have a bit of a laugh —  knowing we were all in it together.’

Millie Gooch. Photo released October 23 2023. See SWNS story SWSMsober. A former
Now, Millie is sober and runs Sober Girl Society full-time (Picture: Millie Gooch / SWNS)

By now, Millie had crafted her ‘whole persona’ around being a party girl, but eventually the hangxiety took over. 

‘I’d go out and wake up in other people’s homes, not remembering how I got there,’ she said.

‘The day after a night of drinking, I’d wake up and feel really low. It was a two-fold effect. Obviously the alcohol itself taking hold, but I’d have real blackouts.

‘I’d get so paranoid — what did I say? What did I do? Is everyone really p*ssed off with me?

‘Hangovers were lasting longer and longer, and by the time I’d start to feel better, it was suddenly Friday, and time to go out again.’

She soon found herself ‘self-medicating’ with alcohol.

‘It was so hard to untangle the cycle,’ she said. ‘Drinking made me anxious, and I’d cope with it by drinking more.’

This is why you get hangxiety

Hangxiety is the dreaded combination of feeling anxious while being hungover, which can be a result of both not knowing what happened (or remembering exactly what happened and feeling embarrassed) and withdrawals from alcohol. 

As Dr Niall Campbell previously told us: ‘Alcohol is a depressant, disrupting the delicate balance of the brain and affects the central nervous system.

‘Chemical changes caused in the brain affect the way it works because it interferes with the brain’s communication pathways, leading to slurred speech and a lack of control, confusion and blackouts.

‘Drinking heavily can also lead to dehydration which leads to anxiety and some medicines will react adversely to alcohol.

‘Heavy drinking causes blood cells to become larger and that makes you more tired because they are unable to transport oxygen efficiently around the body. You might suffer sweats or tremors – all heightening the feeling of anxiety.’

In 2018, Millie decided enough was enough: it was time for a break.

‘The hangover I gave up on was pretty normal for me,’ she said.

‘Nothing life-changing happened, it was nothing crazy. But I just had this sense of clarity – I can’t keep living like this.

‘I didn’t want to use drink to cope with social anxiety. I was sick of going on dates and not being able to remember what happened the night before.

‘It was miserable, and I was struggling.’

Millie Gooch. Photo released October 23 2023. See SWNS story SWSMsober. A former
‘I feel a lot calmer'(Picture: Millie Gooch / SWNS)

Now, five years on, Millie is completely sober and is happier for it, crediting non-alcoholic drinks and her sober friends for helping her stay on track.

She also left the media industry full-time, choosing to work as a freelancer from home and start her own organisation, Sober Girl Society.

‘I just feel a lot calmer now,’ she said. ‘I’m able to manage my mental health a lot better.

‘I’m much more stable. I no longer create all my own problems and disasters. I’m much happier.’

Do you have a story to share?

Get in touch by emailing [email protected].

MORE : Sober dating has helped me realise these red flags before it’s too late

MORE : I was only 22 when I decided to be sober for life

MORE : Millie Mackintosh marks one year sober after thinking it would be ‘impossible’ due to pressures around UK drinking culture