Interview with Lotta Dann
This week, Liv interviewed Lotta Dann, from the popular blog, Mrs D Is Going Without. Lotta drank wine steadily and heavily for 20+ years. On September 6, 2011, after months and months of attempting to control and moderate her drinking, she made the monumental decision to quit. She set out to do this alone, with writing to herself in a private anonymous blog being her own means of support. Quite unexpectedly the blog turned into an amazingly powerful force, not just for Mrs D but for her thousands of readers around the globe. She has since written a book that tells the full story of what was going on behind the scenes of the blog, and now runs a Government funded community website that helps other people get sober. She lives in Wellington, New Zealand.
Interview with Lotta Dann
Liv: Let’s kick off with the first meal of the day, what have you had for breakfast today?
This morning I had a green smoothie - spinach, banana, coconut water, date, kiwifruit. It was delicious but please don’t think I am a saint, I am not. I might start the day like a saint but I often finish it as a sinner - more on that later.
Liv: I’d love to talk about your story. In your interview with TVNZ you said that, “That there is something wrong here.” That you were “lost in the madness.” Tell me about how the madness that presents in someone who, to the outside world, was “functioning to the max”?
It is an utterly mad place to be in when you spend the first half of the day miserable about the amount of alcohol you had the night before and determined not to touch it again, and the second half of the day convincing yourself it’s ok to drink and then drinking lots. And then doing that over and over and over again. Every day a split personality. Desperately wanting to live one way, and then determinedly breaking your own goal. It is a mad, awful, stuck, miserable place to be in.
Liv: Your husband, Corin Dann, A Political Editor for TVNZ, said that he wasn’t aware of the internal struggle that you had. Can you tell us more about that struggle?
Like I say that struggle is an endless flip/flopping from one desire to another - I DO want to drink but I DON’T want to drink - both such strong desires yet both in complete competition with each other. Being a slave to addiction is no. fun. at. all.
Liv: You talk of the realization that you had brought deceit into your relationship by hiding alcohol from your husband. How were you being deceitful to yourself?
Luckily I wasn’t deceitful to myself, I had a nagging voice of truth at the back of my head telling me over and over that I had a problem. As my drinking escalated so did that nagging voice and eventually it was the voice I listened to.
Mrs D, Alcohol Free & Living Sober
Liv: You stopped drinking in 2011. To cope, you decided to write an online diary, anonymously, entitled Mrs D, Going Without. How was it beneficial to your recovery?
Where do I start! Firstly, getting my secret behaviours and innermost thoughts out of my head an onto the screen was very empowering and freeing. As I typed out my truth I started to unpick the twisted reality I had been living in inside my head and then started to really win the war over my addiction. Also, I discovered that I had a very upbeat and positive voice in print that was really encouraging for me. Oftentimes even now when I’m having a shit day I will write in an upbeat way - with exclamation marks! - and will boost myself along massively.
Liv: Your site became so popular that you receive 1000 visitors a day! Congratulations! How did that sense of community impact your recovery?
Visitor numbers have doubled now! The community of strength and support that I have found online is my secret sobriety weapon for sure. If I hadn’t received such warmth and wisdom from like-minded souls online I’m not sure that I would be so happily sober today. I just love the kindness and non-judgement that floats around the online recovery space. It’s awesome… the internet at it’s very best!!!
Liv: You moved on to write a best-selling memoir ‘Mrs D Is Going Without’, which describes your drinking problem and charts your route to sobriety. What was your route to sobriety?
It started on a solo path but ended up on a very crowded highway. Along the way I have hit all the usual highs and lows of recovery. I have up times and down times, but overall I am just so much happier that I am living not a boozy, numbed out life, but one which is raw, real, authentic and brave.
Liv: You moved on to set up Living Sober, a non-profit “community website designed to support people who wish to free themselves from the clutches of alcohol… It is about self-education and empowerment, based firmly around the concept of community.” Tell me how the site leads to empowerment?
To take part in an online recovery community such as ours first you must direct yourself in there by typing the web address in your browser, sounds simple but this action alone can send a very empowering message to the individual…there is no denying you are seeking out some support! Once in there you can simply choose to lurk and follow other people’s conversations, this is also helpful because from the privacy of your own living room you’ll see that you’re not alone, and that many other people are experiencing the exact same struggles as you do. If you do choose to ‘come out’, interact and share your truths you need to use the written word.. this externalising of your thoughts and feelings will be hugely freeing and empowering.. AND THEN on top of all of that you will receive lovely kindness, warmth, wisdom and non-judgemental support in return. What’s not to love!!! This is empowerment to the max!!
Liv: Talk to me about the sober toolbox?
The Sober Toolbox is a section of our site which is broken into categories (Sober Treats, Socialising Sober, Inspirational Quotes etc), each page in the Sober Toolbox is full of content shared by the community. Addicts helping other addicts by sharing tools and tips and ideas etc…
Mrs D On Having Health Recovery
Liv: Let’s talk food! Can you tell me what your relationship with food has been, in recovery?
Very complicated and unresolved I’m sorry to say. I wish I could be a paragon of virtue and tell you that I eat only whole foods and touch very little sugar, refined carbohydrates or fats.. but this is not the case. I tend to fluctuate between being very ‘good’ and being very ‘bad’. I still use foods in the same way that I used booze - to treat, numb, reward, sooth. I hate that I do this and feel like a big failure for not being perfect on this score but I have to be honest, I’m not.
Liv: You have a section on Living Sober, for healthy recipes. What significance do healthy meals have in your recovery?
Having just confessed to my failings I do have to admit that I eat WAY better now than I did when I was boozing. I am much more aware of processed vs whole foods, and as a result I have many healthy recipes that I use daily (such as the green breakfast smoothie I described at the start of this piece!). But I am very drawn to sugary/starchy foods and find it hard to resist them when I am in a heightened emotional state. And just like with booze, once I touch it I am drawn into a dark hole of usage which I find it very hard to get out. I crave it, I binge on it, and then I feel guilty & miserable about it. Hopefully one day I will stop this cycle.
Liv: Penultimate question: what is your favourite meal/dish?
My favourite dinner would be a piece of beautiful fillet steak, yummy mash potato and a beautiful caprese salad (tomato, basil & mozzarella). Or a delicious Laab - Thai ground beef salad. Yum!
Mrs D's Top 5 Recovery Tools
Liv: Last, what are your top five recovery tools?
1) Blogging my truth on a regular basis 2) Being part of an awesome online recovery community 3) My developing mindfulness & gratitude practices 4) Sober treats (fresh flowers, scented candles, glossy magazines, comfy pants) 5) My kids. Looking at them and knowing how much I have improved their lives by giving up alcohol.