Bottled: A Mom's Guide to Early Recovery

Bottled: A Mom's Guide to Early Recovery

by Dana Bowman


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An unflinching and hilarious memoir about recovery as a mother of young kids

Bottled explains the perils moms face with drinking and chronicles the author’s path to recovery, from hitting bottom to the months of early sobriety—a blur of pain and chaos—to her now (in)frequent moments of peace. 

Punctuated by potent, laugh-out-loud sarcasm, Bottled offers practical suggestions on how to be a sober, present-in-the-moment mom, one day at a time, and provides much needed levity on an issue too often treated with deadly seriousness.

Dana Bowman is a long-time English teacher and part-time professor in the department of English at Bethany College, Kansas. Author of the popular, she leads and presents workshops on both writing and addiction, with a special emphasis on being a woman in recovery while parenting young children.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781937612979
Publisher: Central Recovery Press, LLC
Publication date: 09/22/2015
Pages: 264
Sales rank: 753,827
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

Dana Bowman is a long-time English teacher and part-time professor at the department of English at Bethany College, Kansas. Author of the popular, she presents workshops on both writing and addiction, with an emphasis on being a woman in recovery while parenting young children. She lives in Lindsborg, Kansas, with her husband, two young boys, and two neurotic cats. She is very active in her church. Last Christmas she played the part of Mary, and is still in recovery from the pressure. She is grateful her church family loves her, because at times she can be as neurotic as her cats.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1
Birth with a Beer Chaser

My darling husband is leaning over me as I rest in the hospital bed with Charlie snoozing in my arms. Brian is smiling widely, but I am distracted because his pants seem to be . . . clinking? “My darling,” he kisses me. “Here is your beer.”

I don’t like beer. An alcoholic saying she doesn’t like beer is like a doctor saying, “I’m just not that much into stethoscopes. They’re cumbersome.” But beer’s hops make my face itch, and whenever I drink it my nose twitches like a rabbit—and I sneeze a lot. I am willing to accept the irony that I really have an allergy to alcohol, as the Big Book says. But as I lie in my hospital bed, looking over at that brown bottle Brian had so proudly delivered to me from his cargo pants pockets, I thought, yes, please. Then I looked down at the adorable scrunched-up face of Charlie, mere hours old, and thought, no thank you. I’m scared. How did this happen?

I know how it happened. Really, I do. I was there for the whole process. But right then, in that hospital bed, all I wanted was to be far away. Like maybe in Toledo, Ohio, at a bar. One where there are no kids or marriages or a second floor. My house has a second floor. It seems too much to deal with—two floors is a lot of responsibility. It is all so grown-up.

Back at the house with all those stairs, we have a chest of drawers that never opens or shuts properly. We banished it to the guest room on the second floor, of course. I’d bought it at a garage sale back when I was a single girl, and I wasn’t getting rid of it because I’m too cheap. But it doesn’t work. One drawer is wonky and has to be pulled in just a certain way if you want to access what’s inside, and it won’t shut without a lot of shimmying and sometimes a bit of terse language. I had, of course, allotted these drawers for my husband’s underwear. Not that this makes sense. He needs underwear on a daily basis, and yet every day we deal with it, the slamming and the negotiation. The chest of drawers didn’t fit in our lives.

It occurred to me that I should just move the underwear to a drawer that works. This idea was so practical that I knew it wouldn’t see fruition for at least another year or so.

That drawer is exactly how I am feeling now, in that hospital bed, with my beloved Charlie in my arms. I don’t fit. I really want to, and I know I am going to be so very needed. On a daily basis, I imagine. I hear babies are needy that way. But there’s a lot of slamming and rather rough shoving going on in my head that sounds like this:

This is the most precious moment of your life. Just enjoy it. And then I breathe and try to eat some Jell-O, and Brian takes another picture of me eating Jell-O. No, now this is the most precious moment. Your husband is so ecstatic he is taking pictures of hospital Jell-O. Would you please just enjoy this?

And I smile and wobble the Jell-O for him, and think, If he takes another picture, I am going to kill him. I am going to get up out of this bed, leaking all over the place, and hobble over there and smother him with my gigantic leaky body. I hate him.

And finally, I shove myself in place with a solid, What is wrong with you? Just fit. Mothers are happy when they have babies. Would you please, please just enjoy this?

So, you know, the beer kind of helped. I cracked it open and drank it down—nausea and all—while staring out of my large picture window. It was dusk, and I had a lovely view of a gray asphalt roof and a vent.

Charlie’s birth had been difficult, which is sort of like saying World War II was tiresome. The entire pregnancy had been a challenge for me. When my husband and I married, we were what some would call “middle aged.” I was ancient at thirty-six, and my betrothed was nearly dead at thirty-seven. I was blessed with a husband who thought of children as something that must come in multipacks. He was from a large, loud family that had reunions all the time. They really liked each other, the Bowmans; therefore, they kept having more of themselves—all over the place.

One of our first dates was at yet another family reunion, where aunties, cousins, and nephews repeatedly informed me, “You know, he’s never brought a girl to one of these things before!” Then they would look at me with such wonder and hope I was flummoxed. So I would blurt, “Well, here I am! And I’m a girl!” and smile at the group of eighty or so Bowmans all eating barbecue and enjoying the heck out of each other.

By contrast, I came from a small family—small in every sense of the word. We are all short and don’t hang out much. I never knew that family reunions were things that actually happened; they sounded like something goofy and wholesome, like something from The Waltons.

When babies were discussed after we married, I thought of it as some far off thing, like world peace—or the Royals winning the World Series. But, as sometimes happens in marriage, my husband had a completely different view. “We should have lots of kids! Lots of ‘em! Like twelve!” I don’t know how he came up with the number twelve. Perhaps because he has a thing for eggs—or the apostles. I don’t know, but I do remember gently disagreeing with him by saying something like, “Good God, man, over my dead body.”

Charlie decided to come into the world exactly on his due date. This is precisely how my son likes to operate. It was in writing, so he was there. Brian and I headed into the hospital at around 1:00 a.m. My water broke around midnight, and it felt like the baby was tap dancing on my nether regions about every thirty minutes.

I am actually in labor, I thought, as I peered out the window into the darkness surrounding our car. Here I am, in labor. I tested out the next sentence. And after labor, there will be a baby. Amazing how much I’d retained from those sex-ed classes. And that baby will be ours. Like, we’ll bring it home. I felt very disenchanted with the whole idea. I kind of wanted to have the baby, yes. I was huge and tired and it felt like my vagina was permanently dislodged about three feet below where it should be. But taking a baby and putting it in our house? Couldn’t we just . . . check it out every once in a while and then return it?

As usual, when things get overwhelming, I hummed listlessly and revisited my favorite monologue about my husband’s inability to accelerate politely. “You’re revving the engine!” I scolded. “It’s not the Indianapolis 500, dear. It’s just labor.”

“I’m merging with traffic, dear,” he countered grimly.

“You’re merging like Mario Andretti,” I offered. “And, this is a monologue. No heckling.”

I’d had nine months to plan for this, to pray for it, and praise God for it. And here I was, feeling like I was in a movie, one with a funny heroine who was suckered into this whole pregnancy thing, with the hapless lover in tow, and a very short baby-birthing scene to follow. Once the baby was born, I’d be glistening with sweat and cuteness, and my sweet man would lean over to kiss me while I cuddled a non-slimy child. There would be a soundtrack from a John Hughes movie, and I would look into Charlie’s eyes and be forever changed.
It didn’t work out that way.

The actual birth with the dilation and the pushing was a tangled blur. I listened to that heart monitor slow down, and start up again, and then agonizingly slow down again. I rolled over like an accommodating whale that wanted to get a round of applause on this having-a-baby procedure. As the hours passed, Charlie just could not seem to keep up his heart rate.

One half of an epidural later—the local anesthetic had only taken on my left side, which I thought was normal—I was listening so hard to tiny erratic heartbeats that I felt my whole body pulsing with each faint beat. Charlie had no rhythm. Then something changed in the room when the doctor quit being jovial and said, “We need to do a C. Right now.” The room froze. I was hustled down a hall staring at the ceiling while whoever was pushing me ran the gurney into at least three walls and maybe a person or two. I couldn’t find Brian. I thought the lights were terribly bright. This too seemed like a movie but not a happy one.

Later, I woozily told a nurse that I had a half-price epidural. “Could you please make sure my epidural is the sale price on the bill?”

I could tell you the whole story about the C-section and explain how traumatizing and invasive it feels. Because it does feels very, very wrong to have someone pulling around at your insides while you’re awake for the show. Like that scene in Jaws where the geeky scientist cuts open a shark and starts throwing out all the innards from the stomach: a boot, some fish, a license plate, and general disgustingness. You know, after all that? I really felt for that shark.

The problem is that C-sections aren’t all that new to modern medicine. I guess they’ve been around since, well, Caesar. And as much as I’d like to corner the sympathy market on how awful it was, I did just fine. Charlie did, too. We all got out of there alive, with innards smushed back in and intact. As my doctor, Dr. Boo, cheerfully put it, “Everything below your bellybutton is all jacked up”—thanks to the double whammy of long labor and then surgery. Dr. Boo was a great obstetrician, but he also lived up to his name. He freaked me out a bit. Still, the end result was a gorgeous little boy.

After Charlie’s birth Dr. Boo announced, “It sure is a good thing for modern medicine! Without it you both would have been dead!” He grinned and mentioned the beer idea for breastfeeding. I stared at him blankly, and Brian patted my hand, realizing that this news might be a bit upsetting to a woman who just had her uterus placed outside of her body, where no right thinking uterus should be. I just nodded, yes, and then thought, What did you say about beer? Bedside manner was not my doctor’s forte, so I did my usual upon hearing upsetting news: I pretended I didn’t hear it and then filed it away to freak out about later. But I did hold on to that beer advice like it was a life preserver.

So I had a baby—despite myself. As I lay in that bed and contemplated the gloom descending outside, I couldn’t help but wonder. How in the world am I going to pull this off? There was simply no way I could really do this whole mom business.

Once, when I was a freshman, the hottest fraternity at our college invited me to a large party. Their parties were epic. Their boys were of a bronze hue, so muscular and smart they were a walking Ralph Lauren ad. And here I was, being asked to mingle with them. The party was an invitation-only deal, and I still wonder how I managed to get the golden ticket for this one. I wasn’t in a sorority, and I wore flannel a lot.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents



Part One: The Before

Chapter 1 Birth with a Beer Chaser
Chapter 2 I Never Danced on Tables
Chapter 3 I Fall in Love, so All My Problems Are Solved
Chapter 4 All My Problems Are Not Solved
Chapter 5 We Go to Paris and Fight the Whole Time
Chapter 6 Zombie Mom
Chapter 7 I Have Found Jesus but No Clue
Chapter 8 Pinball
Chapter 9 The Dog Dies

Part Two: The During

Chapter 10 Measuring Time 83
Chapter 11 The Big Tell, Part One 93
Chapter 12 Tattoos and Meetings 103
Chapter 13 Toddlers at 4:00 p.m. Are the Devil
Chapter 14 The Big Tell, Part Two
Chapter 15 My Children Are Older and I Am Not
Chapter 16 I Find Out I Am No Longerin Control
Chapter 17 Christopher Scott
Chapter 18 The Big Tell, Part Three
Chapter 19 Steve the Sobriety Cat
Chapter 20 I Find Out I Am Not Hot

Part Three: The Now

Chapter 21 The Big Tell, and Me
Chapter 22 How to Survive Being Happy
Chapter 23 Unwasted Grace
Chapter 24 Street Dance and Beer on My Shoes

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