Chocoholic, noun: a person who is addicted to or excessively fond of chocolate.
Chocolate and I were pals. Best pals. Lunch on my second-grade school trip to Disneyland was a gigantic Hershey’s chocolate bar. On a summer day in my late teens, I sat watching my dad’s boogie board contest, toes covered in sun-warmed sand, and consumed an entire two-pound bag of M&M’s. I didn’t share.
In my forties, gluten and excess sugar became a bane for my digestive system and general health. But I could eat very dark chocolate. My favorite brand was low in sugar, high in quality, and supported endangered animals - perfect. I’d unwrap a bar from the stack in my kitchen cupboard before preparing dinner. I had several stashed in my backpack for all-occasion chomping: waiting to pick up my daughter, between massage appointments, the drive home. The bittersweet yumminess filled in for all the things I could not eat, and was my go-to during emotionally draining days. I consumed voraciously, shamelessly.
Until the morning a couple of years ago when I woke up with what I thought was a spider bite on my right hip. A large bite. I freaked myself out picturing the size of that spider. A few weeks later, another bite popped up, in the exact same spot. It seemed I was dealing with an amazingly accurate arachnid.
As it turns out, this “bite” was actually some sort of reaction. An opportunistic hive lurking behind the scenes, ready to rise up at the slightest provocation, the slightest whiff of…chocolate.
Desperate to support my decades-old habit, I went into denial and workarounds. I tried different brands, and every form of chocolate I could get my hands on: chips, cups, candies. I baked it. I microwaved it. I literally tried sneaking it past my body: “oh, that ole hive won’t notice if I just eat this one little handful of chocolate chips. Or this second one. Or third.” Inevitably, after one of those “sneaks,” I’d be awakened in the middle of the night (why is it always the middle of the night?), intense heat and itching from the latest volcanic emergence on my hip.
After months of body-bargaining and cocoa-negotiating, I had to face facts. I kept worrying that the hive was just an outer symptom of how my body was responding on the inside. The way a smoker’s cough is just a small sign of the crevassed and blackened wreckage of lungs within. The hive reaction was telling me something very clearly and it was time to listen. It was time to quit.
Writing this, I am floored by my tunnel-vision, my determination to find a way to keep ingesting chocolate. By my unrelenting refusal to give up something that was causing me such discomfort. The power of my emotional wanting, craving, was kicking my willpower’s butt. I suppose, in the end, the days-long pain of the hive was not worth the small moment of taste bud chocolate joy.
Though I miss chocolate, I don’t miss the itchy nights. When I crave chocolate nowadays, it gives me a moment to check in with what would truly benefit me. Do I need a walk? Some water? A nap? Dinner? I have options. Maybe someday chocolate and I can be friends again. Until then, that smooth melting across my palate is a bittersweet memory.
Jacqueline Denny, ACC, CHPC, LMT