Alcoholic mom, a Kansas City native, lays bare her addiction, recovery with humor

When Dana Bowman’s husband, Brian, wouldn’t make her one of his “famous” margaritas, she nearly panicked. She had asked him over the phone as a casual suggestion for dinner, “margaritas have to go with tacos, right?”

But Brian said he didn’t feel like drinking that night. It was more than Bowman could handle.

“I am at once heartbroken and incensed,” Bowman, a Kansas City native, writes in her new memoir, “Bottled: A Mom’s Guide to Early Recovery.” “I cannot imagine this night without a drink. It’s Friday night. Friday nights are for unwinding, for fun, and for something to crack me out of this monotony and boredom. I can’t stand the idea. I want to cry.”

A 40-something mother of two young children, Bowman had been self-medicating her depression and anxiety with alcohol for years, primarily relying on white wine and her husband’s $90 scotch to navigate play dates, mealtimes and meltdowns. As is the case with most alcoholics, for a while drinking worked for Bowman.

On the surface she was “Super Perfect Mom.” She also has a fun blog:

“I would whirl about, smile, and somehow manage to have my crap together to the point that if other mothers were having a hard time at playgroup, I would just wander over next to them with my fully stocked diaper bag and offer them a healthy snack and some good will,” she writes.

In private, however, she was falling apart. She found herself drinking earlier and earlier in the day, and her life became a balancing act between attempting to be the perfect wife, mother and college English teacher (she teaches at Bethany College in Lindsborg, Kan.) while also stashing bottles inside her cowboy boots and recovering from her latest brain-liquefying hangover.

Bowman details her journey from drunken despair to acceptance and recovery in a way that is both surprising and relatable. With sharp, witty prose that skillfully toes the line between encouraging and self-deprecating, Bowman crafts an entertaining, heartfelt look at one of the many faces of addiction.

“I drank to cope, to think, to like myself or just tolerate myself, or to not give up,” Bowman writes. “I drank because I wanted to kill myself and also because I had decided drinking would keep me alive. Not exactly Mensa material, but I was pretty pickled at that point, and I chalk up my crazy thinking to the booze.”

In addition to a memoir, the book contains some instructive, self-help aspects. For instance, each chapter ends with a “how-to” list, such as “Top Ten Ways to Tell Your Family You Are an Addict,” or “Top Ten Ways to Stay Sober Through Really Hard Stuff.” Containing items such as “apply interpretive dance with a sequined costume,” these lists are entertaining in their own right. They do, however, serve as a reminder that Bowman’s target audience is, as she says, “mommies in recovery.”

That’s not to say anyone who is child-free and never had a drink can’t enjoy this book.

Bowman is frequently laugh-out-loud funny, and her honesty and insight provide a unique perspective on an oft-discussed topic. But people who have been there themselves and walked in Bowman’s shoes — after removing the bottle of wine carefully concealed there, of course — will see themselves in her story and hopefully realize that they, too, can recover and learn to experience moments of peace.

“Bottled: A Mom’s Guide to Early Recovery” by Dana Bowman (264 pages; Central Recovery Press; $16.95)