Lotta Dann once worried she would never escape her alcohol addiction. It was debilitating, making her feel lonely and confused, and negatively impacting her health over 24 years.
But now, more than a decade since her last drink, she has a message of hope for others going through the same thing: “It takes time, but just hold on.”
In the latest episode of Grey Areas with Petra Bagust, released today, Lotta took us on her journey from alcoholism to sobriety, explaining why booze is such an addictive substance for so many, and how we can escape from its clutches.
“I just was disconnected from myself and everyone around me,” says Lotta.
“We're hardwired to believe that alcohol gives us pleasure – and it does because it releases dopamine – but it actually gives us so much pain, it gives so many people so much pain.
“It causes our society so much pain. It is a really, really problematic drug. And we've gone into crazy land with it in this country, and hopefully it's going to turn around. But the inside job of releasing that and then finding other things, it takes time.”
Lotta says for her, realising she was an alcoholic came when she started noticing the internal debate raging inside of her – between one side, which was worried about her drinking, and the other, which was fuelling the addiction.
“There was that voice that was like, ‘Is this OK? I’m hungover again’, or ‘I told myself I’d just have a glass and then finished the bottle’. And then there was the other voice, that was like, ‘It’s fine, it’s normal’; ‘it’s only wine, it’s not heroin’; ‘everyone does it’; ‘you deserve it, you’re hardworking’.”
This internal debate became louder and louder until, eventually, it was overwhelming. And it wouldn’t go away – Lotta became consumed by thoughts about her drinking habit for months, which turned into years.
She told Petra it was a complicated and isolating period of her life that nearly killed her – but over time, the right voice did come out on top.
“I started listening more to the voice that was worried, and that's the voice that won out in the end. The interesting thing is I'm now 11 years past my last drink, and that other voice has gone.
“I don't miss [alcohol]. I don't think about it, I never hanker for it, I never tell myself I deserve it. So it takes time, but just hold on if you're in the early stages, because you will get to a point where that addictive voice will actually disappear.”
For those in the throes of addiction now, Lotta says the key things are to be intentional about the drinking practices you want to see in yourself, and take difficult decisions that will pay off in the long run.
“But my top tip is to just be really kind to yourself because we’re humans and we don't always make the best decisions. And that's okay too, because things hurt and we get tired and things are tricky.
“Forgive yourself for anything that you feel isn't the right or best way of doing it. Just be kind and know that if you're trying to head in the right direction, then that's the best you can do.”