Celebrating International Women’s Day with Lotta Dann

by Clear Head Drinks

In the spirit of International Women’s Day, we had a chat with the inspirational Lotta Dann, who has done huge things for helping people free themselves from the burden of alcohol. Lotta’s sober journey started a little over 10 years ago when she gave up drinking and started writing about it through her infamous blog “Mrs D is Going Without”.  This soon gathered the attention and support of thousands of readers and in 2014 her best-selling memoir, telling the story of her recovery, was published. 

Despite its success, Lotta felt her blog was limited in that she was getting tens of thousands of people coming to read and comment on her posts, but they couldn’t talk to each other!  Fortunately, she found herself in a fateful meeting with someone from the addiction sector who saw merit in building an online community.  She was then lucky enough to secure Government funding to build and run a community-based website, and so livingsober.org.nz was born. 

Livingsober.org.nz is a social and highly connected online community where members can support one another through their sober journeys, as well as gain access to useful information and resources to help them along the way.  The website, which is effectively “all-Lotta”, has gone from strength to strength and currently has over 12,000 members. It's free to join and members can be anonymous, so there are very few barriers to entry.

Since starting her blog, launching the website, and publishing her memoir “Mrs D is Going Without”, Lotta has written two more insightful books in the alcohol, addiction, and recovery space, “Mrs D is Going Within” and “The Wine O’clock Myth”.  She writes authentically with raw honesty, sharing the full spectrum of emotions she experienced during her recovery while maintaining a fabulous sense of humour throughout.  She’s also a woman, a mother, a wife, and among many other things a proudly self-proclaimed ‘housewife’ with a wealth of knowledge and experience to offer.  We’re honoured to be chatting to her in celebration of IWD2022.

Here's what Lotta had to say

You’ve done, and you’re doing a whole lot of stuff!  What would you say is your day job? Like, what do you say when someone asks, “what do you do”?

I like to say that I’m a writer.  I do really identify as being a writer.  One of my main jobs on the Living Sober website is all the content creation so I’m constantly writing for the website, as well as writing books. Now I’m also writing a post graduate diploma, and a fourth book. 
But I do also identify as being a housewife – and I know there may be some work that needs to be done around the label ‘housewife’ – but I like that; it sums it up for me - I do a lot of laundry! A lot of cooking, housework, and parenting all which to me is me ‘being a housewife’ and I love that, it really grounds me.  So, yeah, I’m a writer and a housewife!

Your story is one that’s so relatable, you’ve shared your struggles in such an honest and open way, which I think is a huge part of why you’ve been able to have such an impact on so many people, especially women.  So, given that we’re here chatting to raise awareness of International Women’s Day and this year’s theme #BreakTheBias, what connection do you see or make with this theme and women and alcohol?

One of the strong bias’s that I see constantly in my environment, is the belief that alcohol enhances a women’s life.  It’s inherent in all the marketing, it’s on the telly, you know if you’re watching a drama, you’ll see a woman who gets stressed or something and so she pours herself a glass of wine. It’s so embedded in our culture this bias viewpoint that alcohol is beneficial for women, and it is not true.  I’m not just saying I believe it’s not true, it’s a fact.  It is not true.  It causes more harm than good and so there’s a huge bias there that we have got to push against.
Ultimately, the change has to come from Government, they need to change the regulations around the availability of alcohol, the marketing, and the fact that it’s so cheap.  But also, we as women need to change the bias, we need to get a bit feisty and grumpy about it!  You know, it’s just simply not true that I need to open a bottle of wine to be a good host, it’s not true that I need to have a gin and tonic to be able to relax.  None of the messages or images that we’re being sent about the things that alcohol does for us are true.  In fact, women are more powerful when they are being raw, messy, emotional, and authentic – that is what our strength is - and alcohol numbs all of that! 

If you had a magic wand, what is one thing you would change or try to change in relation to women and alcohol?

If it was just going to do one achievable thing in the short term, I’d say take it out of supermarkets.  You know, women do the bulk of the family and household shopping and it’s not just the temptations and availability that comes with it being in the supermarket, it’s the messaging it sends by being there.  It’s making a lie about the truth of the product in that it’s toxic, addictive, and carcinogenic and it doesn’t belong on a shelf next to hummus! I think taking it out of the supermarkets it would go a long way to acknowledging outwardly that this product isn’t harmless.
If it was something bigger it would be the marketing – I would ban all advertising.  You know, its all-over social media, it’s everywhere, and I just think it should not be allowed, I really don’t.

You’ve already done and doing so much in this space, but do you have anything else you’re working on to further support others in the addiction and alcohol space? 

At the moment I’m really working on trying to do the best job I can for the members in the community at Living Sober, so that’s why I’ve started doing these video chats called 'Sobriety Chats', which is a new way of giving people inspiration where they can hear and see two people sitting there talking about sobriety.  I am also studying to be a counsellor, I’ve got about three years of study ahead because I want to do it properly so I can safely help people with all the right registrations in place, and I’m writing a new book. Hopefully I can fit it all in!

What is something that surprised you about living an alcohol-free lifestyle? Something positive that you didn’t expect when giving up drinking?

When I quit drinking, I thought I was an aging party girl who had lost control of her habit. I did not realise that, actually, I was an emotion-avoider that had spent her whole life trying not to feel, particularly to feel sad. I’m a very teary person and I was trying to push that away for 40 years.  That was the biggest surprise to me.
And also, I just didn’t realise that lots of people don’t booze – I always thought everyone at a party or wedding was hitting it hard but they’re not. So that was great, and now I talk to those people!  Even at the end of functions around midnight, you can sit off to the side on the sofa or whatever and have these lovely chats with people who aren’t wasted. It’s just great.

What advice or tips would you give to women starting or considering taking a sober journey themselves?

Definitely connect with other people who are doing it because that is really helpful.  Just give it time, go gently on yourself, focus on what the benefits are, reach out and connect with others, and just trust that you will get to a place where you don’t miss it as much. 

Honestly, we’ve been so heavily conditioned to believe all sorts of things about the positive benefits of alcohol that are not true. If you can be rigorous about switching your thinking around, there’s lots of great books you can read and podcasts to listen to that will help.  

Also fill up your social media feed with the right kind of people who are promoting sobriety or alcohol free living, and if you’ve got a friend or a company that’s posting really pro-alcohol content then mute them for a while.  You don’t have to unfollow them, just mute them because it can be hard to see these things, especially if you’ve had a bad day or you’re tired or grumpy or whatever.  Just take control of your social media feeds.

To finish with something light, what’s your current go to drink of choice?

I’m having a ginger beer right now!  I do like the flavoured tonic waters, but also the distilled alcohol-free spirits, Ecology & Co and the like.  I must say, I’m just so thrilled there are outfits like Clear Head Drinks that are there now, catering for people who want to do things a different way. It wasn’t around when I quit 10 years ago and it’s just great! 


The Wine O'Cloth Myth book cover by Lotta Dann
Lotta's latest book published in 2020, The Wine O'Clock Myth, uncovers the truth about women and alcohol.  In her book, Lotta shines a light on the lies we're told through various forms of messaging about how alcohol enhances our lives, and as we've seen in this interview, it's simply not true! This book is a great read for anyone questioning their own drinking habits and wanting to understand more about how and why alcohol is so often being mindless over consumed. 

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