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I'm Powerless Over Chocolate and My Life Has Become Unmanageable

Don't tell me it isn't substance abuse. This is serious.

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By Bonnie Bernstein

02/14/14

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Because I’m alone, no one sees how much chocolate I stuff my face with. This past New Year’s Eve, to jump-start a diet, I ate a box of SlimFast bars. Before that, I had been so good about not eating chocolate. I promised my sick dog I wouldn’t touch a snickers. I had lasted four days without a yodel, or anything like it. And then I let my guy down. It’s hard being by myself sometimes. It would be nice to have the whole New Year’s Eve bit—the date, the party hats, the kiss at midnight. And to not be embarrassed when someone asks me how my New Year’s Eve was. I always just answer a “Bah Humbug.” (Don't even get me started on Valentine's Day.)

I don’t know how to celebrate the night. I’ve gone to a couple of parties. Always dateless, I never felt comfortable with them. As a teenager, I was shown to the chairs set up for the kids who weren’t in the in-crowd. We were all either nerds or exchange students or the learning-disabled. I couldn’t wait to get home. My sister and I would eat a giant sized Hershey’s bar while watching Dick Clark. And after the ball would do its thing, I’d go to sleep. Now I make it a point to go to sleep before midnight. After a double hot chocolate. 

I always said, “I could never become addicted to drugs or alcohol or anything else. I have chocolate.” I would tell myself, “Chocolate is safer than heroin or too much rum in one night.” Then I was told that because of all the chocolate I was eating I got kidney stones and that I was putting myself at risk for kidney failure. Chocolate can have calcium and it always has oxalates, whatever that is. Too much chocolate puts me at risk for dialysis.

I finally got around to reading James Frey’s A Million Little Pieces. The memoir rang true for me because as I devoured the story like a box of ring dings, I began to substitute whatever substances Frey claimed to be addicted to with chocolate. And I began to realize the seriousness of my addiction when I saw that I feel the same about chocolate as he wrote about feeling about alcohol. One scene was quite familiar for me—at his upscale rehab, Frey would load his plate full of food because he never felt full without a bottle of booze. When I don’t eat chocolate, I’m never full. I eat too many carbs, never full. Without chocolate, I gain weight.

Whenever I quit chocolate, I go cold turkey. I can’t cut back. It’s not like counting points on a Weight Watchers diet. Having a limit and keeping to it. It’s all about, “Out of sight, out of mind.” And it seems to work for a while—the worst was four days, the best was nine months. I usually quit when I’m told by a doctor that my health is threatened by it. Like the time I had breast surgery. The doctor wanted me to quit so I wouldn’t have cystic breasts. Nine months later, I was feeling ugly. Someone offered me a piece of chocolate. That was it. Sometimes I quit for other reasons. The last one was because my dog is sick with kidney disease. I promised I’d quit eating chocolate if he’d eat his own food. Neither one of us seems to be holding up the deal.

I noticed my chocolate addiction has gotten more intense through the years. And I wondered why. Then I realized that I am on my own now, responsible for my own decisions. And I hated the way I’ve screwed up. Picked the wrong men. And didn’t want to admit it until it was too late. So I’d eat more chocolate. In a mall, with a man by my side, I’d buy my own truffles for dinner. 

I feel I’m making some strides toward alleviating this problem. I don’t know when to stop. And when I try I substitute it with bad decisions like eating too much, not knowing how to be financially responsible, meeting the wrong men. But I feel there is hope in finally ending the ridiculous search for a box of chocolate donuts in a blizzard.

Part of the solution is admitting there is a problem. It goes beyond chocolate. I know chocolate is just a poor home remedy for being depressed for not being my own person. If I think better of myself, I’ll be financially secure and meet men who will treat me better. If I like myself, I might be able to eat more responsibly.

Wait. Who am I lying to here? Will I ever be able to give up the pounds of chocolate a day habit? Not sure. But I will keep trying.

Bonnie Bernstein has written for Salon and Newsday and has been interviewed by Anderson Cooper.

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