Health Stories

Mum’s shame: my 24 year secret I hid from my family

'I felt so ashamed.'

When Lotta hit rock bottom, she knew she had to change.

Here, Lotta Dann, 46, tells the story in her own words.

Waking up with a pounding head and dry mouth, I groaned.

Hungover again… But it wasn’t from a Saturday night out or a special occasion, it was just a regular weekday night where I’d shared a couple of bottles of wine with my hubby, Corin. Yet as usual, he’d only had a glass while I’d drunk the majority. And it was a daily occurrence.

Ever since my first taste of booze at 15, I’d totally loved it. By the time I turned 20, I was drinking every single day. And when I got my first journalism job in TV, nothing changed.

Boozing was a big part of the industry and as soon as our news program aired, we’d be in a bar celebrating. Even if it wasn’t a social occasion, I’d just polish off a bottle of wine at home. To me, I was young, working hard and having fun. 

high school drinking
Drinking at my school dance age 16

Then when I was 29 I met Corin.

A year after marrying, I fell pregnant with our first bub and ditched the booze without a problem.

Breastfeeding was relatively easy, I’d just express our boy’s nightly feed so I could enjoy a few glasses in the evening. But once I was able to properly drink again, I quickly reverted to my old ways.

One day, when our boy was two, I went to the shop to get a bottle of wine. ‘Mummy’s juice,’ he said, pointing at the bottle. I felt so ashamed.

When I was pregnant with our second and third sons, I stopped drinking again. But I hit it hard as soon as I could.

At 4.45pm I’d look at the clock. Almost wine time, I’d think. Then at 5pm on the dot, it seemed acceptable to crack open a bottle. I’d glug it back while getting dinner ready, then have another few glasses as we ate.

Because it was so out in the open, it probably didn’t look like I had much of a problem.

Every morning I woke up feeling rough though. Persevering though the queasiness, I never let it affect my day.

The house was always tidy and everyone was fed. I’m a high-functioning alcoholic, I realised. But I couldn’t stop. And in time Corin noticed just how much I was putting away. ‘Let’s not bother tonight,’ he said, when I reached to open a bottle of red.

Shrugging it off, I tried to make it seem like I was fine with it, but deep down I was so disappointed. When my hands started to shake, I poured myself a glass anyway.

Adding it all up, I realised I was spending $200 on drink every week.

drinking addiction
I just couldn’t stop drinking

Then, one evening, Corin suggested we have a booze-free night and I agreed. But as soon as he left to take the boys to Scouts, I raced out and bought two bottles of wine.

Sculling the first back home, I ended up in the pantry on my hands and knees, frantically trying to hide the bottle in the bin. Then I opened the second and poured myself a glass.

‘Ah, you couldn’t make it,’ Corin noted, when he saw me. ‘Yeah but I’ve gone slow. This is my first,’ I lied.

The next morning I woke up in floods of tears, horrified. I’d lied to my husband and the alcohol was controlling my life. By now, I’d been battling my addiction for 24 years.The only way I’ll change is to give up drinking altogether, I realised.

When Corin got home from work, I told him everything and admitted I’d lied the night before. ‘I know, I checked the bin,’ he said.

That made me feel even worse – my drinking meant we were going behind each other’s backs.

‘I’ll support you getting sober,’ he said. I chose not to get help at a treatment centre. Instead, I wrote myself a letter.

Dear Lotta, I’m going to stop drinking, it doesn’t serve me well…

couple photo
Me and Corin today

I also decided to start my blog Mrs D is going without, to hold myself accountable.

Every day I wrote a post documenting another day of being sober. Initially, it was tough. But when I got a craving, I’d furiously clean the house or read a magazine to distract myself.

Visualising myself getting into bed sober each night was my daily goal.

Soon, my skin was clearer, I’d lost weight and I had more energy. And as the weeks of my sobriety continued, my blog started to grow.

People from all over the world were reading it and offering me words of encouragement.

‘You seem so much happier, I’m proud of you, love,’ Corin said.

Now, I’ve been sober for six and a half years, and I am truly happy. We both shudder at the thought of what might have happened if I’d continued the way I had.

I’ve discovered that my life can be fun and fulfilled without alcohol. Best of all, as I am no longer chasing my next fix, I’m more present for my husband and our boys, aged 13, 11, and eight.

It took me 24 years to recognise my addiction, but I’ve finally realised that alcohol is not the solution to happiness.

For support with an addiction, call 13 11 14 (Aus) or 0800 787 797 (NZ)

Read more in this week’s issue of that’s life!, on sale now.

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