This post was originally published on August 11, 2015.
People get sober in all sorts of ways. Sometimes they just quit on their own. Sometimes they go to rehab. They show up in 12-step rooms, ashrams, churches and their parents’ basements. There is no one right way—something we’ve aimed to show in our collection of How I Got Sober stories. While we initially published these as either first person essays by our contributors or as interviews with anonymous sober folks, we eventually began to realize that there were other stories to tell: yours. This is our reader spotlight and this, more specifically, is Lotta.
Click here to see all of our How I Got Sober stories.
What is your sobriety date?
September 6, 2011
Where did you get sober?
Auckland, New Zealand
When did you first start drinking?
I was 15. It was very easy for me to become a drinker. Booze was all around me—in my house, in my community, and in the wider world as I saw it.
How would you describe your life before you quit drinking?
I drank steadily and heavily from the age of 15 until the age of 39. Wine was my constant companion through all of the highs and lows of my life. I traveled the world, built up a good career as a TV producer and director, educated myself to Master’s-level, built and maintained numerous strong relationships, married a lovely man, and had three children. But slowly over the years, my dependence on alcohol grew to the point where I was heavily addicted.
What was your childhood like?
My early childhood was very loving, warm, settled, stress-free, and fun. Things started getting tense in my family home around the time that I started drinking. My parents eventually got a divorce when I was 21. Even then, they worked hard to remain loving and supportive towards me and my three sisters.
Do you remember the first time you thought you might have a problem?
As an adult, I struggled to achieve any alcohol-free days. I needed more and more wine to feel “full.” My behavior was getting sloppier and more dysfunctional. I became crippled with guilt and tried every trick in the book to achieve moderation.
How did you rationalize your drinking?
I told myself (as I had all my life) that drinking was “normal”—that everyone did it, that I was a hardworking housewife and mother, that I deserved it.
What do you consider your bottom?
One night, I hid a bottle of wine from my husband so that he couldn’t see how much I had been drinking. It was the first time that I acted with outright dishonesty over my alcohol intake. The morning after I hid the bottle—through floods of tears and despair—I had a moment of clarity. The problem wasn’t me, the problem was the alcohol in me.
Did you go to rehab?
Nope. I set out to get sober alone, at home.
Did you go to AA?
I did not.
So what did—and do—you do to help you stay sober?
I started a blog two days after I stopped drinking. I intended it to be a private online journal that I would use to talk to myself, to keep myself honest and to stay on top of my thoughts. I hid my true identity by calling myself Mrs D with my blog “Mrs D Is Going Without.” The process of externalizing my thoughts and feelings was very freeing and transformative. Furthermore—and completely unexpectedly!—a community of readers and bloggers slowly grew around my blog. I discovered many other bloggers who I, in turn, supported.
What do you hate about being an alcoholic?
Nothing. I am grateful for being an alcoholic because it has given me the rich gift of sobriety. I am proud to say that I am an alcoholic in recovery.
What do you love about being an alcoholic?
That it has given me greater empathy for others. That it has led me through this amazing transformation that I am so thankful for. Without having dug deep to beat my addiction, I don’t know that I would ever have experienced this incredible uplift in my life. I love being sober!
What are the three best tools you have acquired to stay sober and happy?
Building a community of like-minded people around me who understand what it is like to be powerless over alcohol. We connect in kind, wise, supportive and non-judgmental ways.
Focusing clearly on my thoughts around alcohol. I have the power to change them. Fighting all the hard-wired beliefs I had about the positive benefits of alcohol, calling them “bullshit!” and actively working on turning them around when they fly into my brain.
Embracing wholeheartedly the concept of “Sober Treats,” which really comes under the umbrella of “Self-Care.” I never feel guilty about buying myself fresh flowers, fancy tea or scented candles.
Do you have a sobriety mantra?
Booze is shit and all the cool people are sober nowadays!
What is the most valuable thing that has happened to you in recovery?
I have woken up as a human being. I am finally living as a fully realized person. Furthermore, I did not expect that my blogging would lead to a book deal! My recovery memoir Mrs. D Is Going Without was published by Allen & Unwin last year.
Have you worked the 12 steps? What is your opinion on them?
No, I haven’t. But I know that they are an amazing blueprint for recovery that has helped millions of people get sober around the world.
If you could offer a newcomer or someone thinking about getting sober any advice, what would it be?
Be brutally honest with yourself. Know that change is possible. Call bullshit on your hard-wired beliefs about booze. Play the tape forward and think past the romantic image of the first drink. Find your community. Maybe get a sober companion. Visualize yourself as the calm and happy sober person you’d like to be. You can become that person!