Reviewed by Linda Sladkey | April 15, 2016
Vulnerability draws me in like a magnet every time. Combine quick-witted sarcasm with transparency and I feel I’ve made a new best friend. You see, I identify with scuffed up people. Even though addiction is not my personal battle, as I read Dana Bowman’s Bottled: A Mom’s Guide to Early Recovery, I could relate to her honest and biting humor as she tells how “it took a wedding, two babies, and a funeral to help me understand I needed to get sober.” How she found celebration while in recovery is the real story.
From her beginning references to a “Sharpie-marker-on-the-couch kind of day,” Bowman transported me to the time when my own kids were small and the black Sharpie marker decorated the dog and then, with a later child, the living room carpet in broad sweeping arches. The toddler years are a season parents remember—some more fondly than others.
Anyone who has ever been through a significant hurt or life-altering season knows that everyone has a story. We all have our private pain. Bowman, who attends the Lindsborg (Kansas) Covenant Church, is candid enough to share hers—and in so doing, reminds us to see others in a more generous light. She reminds us to listen more and judge less.
With chapter titles such as “Birth with a Beer Chaser,” “The Big Tell,” “Toddlers at 4:00 p.m. Are the Devil,” and “Steve the Sobriety Cat,” she recaps her arduous journey from messy discovery to never-ending recovery without sugarcoating the process or her faith. “This is the story of how I stopped and keep being stopped every day, twenty-four hours at a time,” says Bowman. Even if you are not in recovery, there are so many lessons to help readers understand the battles an alcoholic mother of young children is fighting and how to be present in the moment.
Bowman, an English teacher and part-time professor at Bethany College in Lindsborg, Kansas, recalls the moment she realized she was still funny—even without a drink. And she is funny. Her popular momsieblog.com and workshops on both writing and addiction offer more opportunities to hear her potent narrative. (Her blog includes an engagingly comic story about the Barnes & Noble sales clerk who helped her find Bottled on the store’s shelves.) Her forthright account of life in “recovery at its sloppy best” invites us all to lift up our face, connect with another human being, and remember to laugh.
Whether you yourself struggle with addiction or love someone who does—friend, neighbor, family member—Bottled will instruct and encourage. The twist that sets this memoir apart from other poignant addiction stories is the quirky and sometimes irreverent humor she infuses into the telling. Bowman is proof that there is joy in sobriety and a genuine possibility of liking yourself at the end of the day.