Book Review: Bottled by Lena H.
Dana Bowman has uncorked the bottle of her own bubbly spirit and poured it into this memoir. Her apt and cheery insights go down like sparkling cider, page after page, arousing the reader’s sympathy and interest.
Perfect for the recounting of an alcoholic’s drinking saga, Bowman’s book has three parts: “The Before,” “The During” and “The Now.” At the end of each chapter is a Top Ten list with droll but sincere suggestions for coping at each stage.
In “The Before,” the author goes from “Birth with a Beer Chaser” – as her kind husband smuggles a beer into the hospital for her after the arduous birth of their first son – to drinking more than a bottle of wine a day. By this part’s final chapter, she is hiding bottles in boots and laundry baskets, and finding no joy except in anticipation of her next drink. A perfectionist and supermom, she tries to handle it all: her marriage to a punctilious engineer, raising two rambunctious boys, and teaching college classes. But, when she can’t manage it, she becomes Zombie Mom. Her house is a mess; she and Brian don’t speak; her kids and their “poopies” drive her crazy; her teaching suffers. Then to top it off, her old and faithful dog dies. To cope, she ups her wine dosage, drinking from plastic tumblers because she has broken all the glasses. At the end of “The Before,” one of the author’s “Top Ten Ways to Deal with Really Bad Stuff” is a warning: “Throwing copious amounts of alcohol on top of bad things only makes them wet bad things.”
But she’s just warming up. In “The During,” Bowman and alcohol become “totally committed to each other.” Leaving her boys strapped in their car seats, she runs into the store for more liquor – with no small amount of guilt. She’s run out of booze and needs more, now. She hides liquor, rationalizes it, and increases her consumption. She passes out on the floor and decides to quit – in just three more days. Again and again.
Finally, she admits she can’t put a cork in her drinking. She goes to AA and, deprived of alcohol, becomes a “raw flesh monster walking around in a fuzzy bathrobe with a gloomy disposition.” However, remembering “the only thing you have to do is not drink,” she does not drink. Slogging through her days, she begins to link sober ones together. One day, sipping tea in the backyard as she watches her boys get filthy playing in the sandbox, she realizes that she is “absolutely at peace.” AA’s “Top Ten Annoying Recovery Slogans That Actually Work” are saving her: Keep It Simple, One Day at a Time, Live and Let Live, and so on – including some she’s modified to suit herself, such as, “Everything Happens for a Reason – But Sometimes that Reason is that You’re Stupid and You Make Bad Decisions.”
In “The Now,” the author has “invited recovery to live with us, a beloved but sometimes really annoying houseguest, for the rest of my life.” Through AA, she has learned to survive holidays and parties, to be grateful, to love, and even to celebrate, all without booze. Like many recovering alcoholics, she still has “a million little reasons, sidling up to [her], every day, to drink up.” However, in “The Now,” she keeps those reasons bottled in the cellar of her past and drinks instead from the wellspring of a Higher Power’s wisdom.
Even for this exacting reviewer, Bowman’s occasional grammatical and structural bloopers do not hinder reading enjoyment; some gaffes seem almost to suit her style. From its heady start to its smooth finish, this spirited story of recovery is a delight.
by Dana Bowman
Central Recovery Press, Las Vegas