Still a party girl, but without wine

TALIA CARLISLE
Last updated 11:40 17/07/2014
Lotta Dann
TALIA CARLISLE/FAIRFAX NZ

BUMPY RIDE: Giving up alcohol wasn't easy for Karori author Lotta Dann.

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Karori mother-of-three Lotta Dann thought she was alone when she started an anonymous blog to control her drinking habits. 

A successful television producer with three sons and a loving husband, no lunches were forgotten, no floors were left unvacuumed. But Dann had a secret.

What seemed like a harmless love of wine could have cost her it all.

When Dann was a teenager, she discovered two things that would have an impact on the rest of her life - alcohol and journalism.

Dann discovered her love of writing while working on the college newspaper at Burnside High School in Christchurch.

After college she worked as a copy girl at News Ltd in Sydney for a year before studying journalism at Wellington Polytechnic - now Massey University - and the New Zealand Broadcasting School in Christchurch.

"I always wanted to write and the easiest way to get a job writing was by being a journalist," she said. "Also, I'm curious about people and journalism's all about people."

After journalism school, Dann's career quickly grew from television reporter to producer, researcher, writer and, most importantly, mother.

Despite living in Wellington for 16 years, Dann is a Christchurch girl "born and bred".

She attended Christchurch Girls' High School, but shifted to Burnside High School part-way through.

Until she found journalism, Dann felt an emptiness she couldn't escape from.

"I wasn't a very settled teenager and I wasn't settled in my early 20s," she said.

"I shifted around schools and friends and was just hunting around for what was going to make me happy.

"I used to say I had job commitment phobia because I was moving all the time."

The "calming" of Dann started when she met her husband, Television New Zealand political editor Corin Dann.

"It cemented when I got sober and now I'm in a very calm place."

But becoming sober was no easy task.

What started as a fun drinking habit as a teenager had grown until one wine bottle a night wasn't enough to feel "full".

"I kept making deals with myself - 'Tonight I'm only going to have one glass' and I kept breaking that deal."

Only Dann knew the extent of the addiction taking over her mind and body, and its resulting guilt.

"I was fun, drinking, Lotta, a party girl. I wasn't a drama drinker. I was a fun party drinker. But it was stopping me from finding me. The booze got in the way."

Dann's rock bottom came when she found herself hiding a bottle of wine in the pantry from her husband.

"That's when I got out. I didn't like the deceit. It was what alcohol was turning me into."

To eliminate drinking, she refocused her energy on an anonymous blog she called Mrs D is Going Without.

"I wasn't ashamed.

"The minute I stopped drinking, I started telling people I wasn't drinking because I couldn't control it.

"But with my blog I didn't want to expose myself to the whole world. I was just trying to write for myself. Fix myself. I had no idea people were going to start reading it."

Dann's situation turned out to be more common than she realised.

At the height of its popularity, the blog received 4000 hits a day and more than 75 comments on a single blog post. The blog is still running.

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Besides the blog, Dann has written a book, Mrs D is Going Without, that provides more details about her life-changing decision and the blog's success.

The book was named a bestseller on the New Zealand Non-Fiction for Adults bestseller list a week after its launch.

Dann's latest task is managing a soon-to-be-launched online resource for people in recovery, in collaboration with the New Zealand Drug Foundation, Health Promotion Agency and Matua Raki.

On September 9 it will be three years since Dann last touched alcohol and she isn't turning back.

"Once you get through the hard fluxes, living without any alcohol in your life is totally doable. It's better than doable, it's amazing."

Apart from Dann's initial struggle to control her cravings, the hardest part was admitting she had a problem.

Her advice to people in the same situation is not to be scared of the truth.

"You have to be brutally honest with yourself. For people like me, where it wasn't obvious from the outside, it is really difficult because no-one knows but you.

"There comes a point when you have to accept the truth and not be scared, because that's the start of the shift that will lead you to much greater happiness." Mrs D is Going Without, $35.

- Read Lotta Dann's blog at http://livingwithoutalcohol.blogspot.co.nz/

- The Wellingtonian

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