Wine mum culture under the microscope
Lotta Dann (aka Mrs D) is the bestselling of three books, with the latest being The Wine O'Clock Myth: The Truth You Need To Know About Women and Alcohol. She runs the Living Sober website and co-facilitates workshops on addiction and recovery. She talks to Ocean Hills about her recovery journey.
Tell us about your drinking days.
I drank steadily and heavily for over 20 years. It was a huge part of my life. I used alcohol daily from a very young age to really soothe my way through life. It relaxed me and helped me party and be ‘fun Lotta’. There were a lot of good times – I’ll be honest about that – but there were also a lot of bad times, a lot of sloppy times and a lot of dangerous times. As the years went on it got worse and worse and heavier and heavier and I basically lost control of the drug to the point where I had to take it away. It was terrifying.
Do you remember your rock bottom?
Very well, and I will never let myself forget it because I’m actually grateful for it now because it got me to change. It came at the end of a good two-to-three years of a very fierce internal debate with myself, and actively trying to moderate and control alcohol, and failing. My final night of drinking was a Monday night. I drank close to two bottles of wine, which wasn’t unusual. But this time, I hid one of the empty bottles from my husband to hide how much I was drinking, which I’d never done before. It’s a common behaviour to hide empties but for me, I did it once and that was enough. I could see that it was a new, dysfunctional behaviour on top of all these other dysfunctional behaviours and at a time that I was really trying to moderate and control. That was it: I woke up the next morning in floods of tears and made the terrifying decision that alcohol had to go.
How did you get sober?
I set out to do it on my own, which was foolish I know now, because you shouldn’t – you need people. I don’t know what it says about my personality but I was just like, ‘I’m gonna fix myself’. I was too nervous to go to AA, even though I knew they’d all be lovely. And I didn’t have a friend to take me... my drinking had been largely hidden so no one knew how bad things were. I decided I was going to write to myself every day to stay on top of my thoughts and keep myself honest. I started a blog that was anonymous, a diary online. Slowly, people started reading and relating to me and supporting me and they were doing the same thing. It was incredible. I felt connected to people who understood my battle. I basically developed a community of support online that to be honest keeps me sober to do this day.
It’s incredible how your ‘terrifying’ decision to stop drinking evolved into the Living Sober community. Do you ever look back and wonder how it happened?
Yes! But mostly I look back and I’m grateful. I’m not unusual in discovering the joys and sorrows of life after I quit booze. It happens to most if not all people who get sober – things get better. What I know is that there’s a lot of us who are struggling away, miserable and feeling alone, and we’re sloshing around on the internet...as we connect and bond with each other we lift each other and make it easier to get on with the business of getting sober. That is hugely strengthening.
What are some of the good things that have happened to you in sobriety?
The main thing is connecting in with myself. It sounds a bit self-absorbed but I was very disconnected from who I really was as a person. I didn’t know what I liked, what I didn’t like, what made me feel good, what nourished me, what fuelled my soul. I wasn’t really aware of all of that but I am now because I’ve had to be with myself ‘in the raw’ for 8.5 years. Secondary to that internal transformation is my discovery of my true writing voice and the fact that I’ve got an ability to articulate what’s going on for me in a way that other people relate to. I don’t think I ever would have discovered that gift without having blogged about my darkest days. Not only has my personal life been transformed but so has my professional life.
Did you ever consider yourself to be an alcoholic?
Not when I was drinking. It’s such a loaded term and comes with a lot of fear and negative connotations. But about two months after I quit drinking we were driving down a country road and I was just staring at the fields. I had a moment where I thought to myself, I am an alcoholic. It was a hugely powerful moment for me. I actually felt my stomach turn and something changed in me. It was like a peace came over me because it was my truth. I’ve used the word alcoholic quite freely since then. I quite like it to be honest – I like the drama of it! It suits my personality. But seriously, it’s a very easy way to summarise my reality to people. I certainly fully identify as someone who has got absolutely no control over alcohol.
What are your thoughts about rehab?
I think rehab is really powerful for people who need to be taken out of their normal life for a bit to really focus on what they’re doing. Being removed from your normal pressures and stressors and relationship and taken into a safe environment is hugely helpful for people who need that. Good rehabs also help with the transmission back into normal life – that’s where we end up and that’s where we need to stay well. Whatever gets a person well!