Chocolate-Layered Addiction

Feb 13th, 2011 | By | Category: All Posts, Christina's Blog

Christina Enevoldsen

by Christina Enevoldsen

When I was ten, a psychologist who worked for the school district took me out of class to talk to me. I had always known there was something wrong with me; I knew I was different, marked in some way. I was sure that when people looked at me, they recognized that too. She confirmed my fear when she singled me out in a class of thirty students.

I didn’t have the words to tell her my dad was doing bad things with me. I didn’t even know the things that were happening weren’t normal. I couldn’t define why I felt so hollow.

I knew the psychologist wanted to hear something, so I told her I was sad because I didn’t have any friends. That wasn’t true in the sense that I didn’t have playmates. I was shy, but I had friends. The truth was I was completely alone. Since I was different, there was nobody of my kind. No allies. There was no one understand me or share my pain.

I especially felt like a stranger in my own home. My mom wasn’t very touchy-feely or comfortable with emotions. My dad was very touchy-feely stuff, but in a creepy way. Though my mom held me at arm’s length, she tried to placate me and comfort me through food. Especially chocolate. I LOVED chocolate.

When I started to gain weight in my teen years, my dad restricted my eating. I had to hide my chocolate consumption so I sneaked around as though I was having a secret love affair. I planned rendezvous with my love and the secrecy became part of the excitement.

As an adult, my relationship with chocolate continued. When my memories of the sexual abuse surfaced, I binged on hazelnut candy bars, chocolate chip cookies and rocky road ice cream. I preferred spending time alone with chocolate to being with friends. Chocolate never rejected me. It was faithful.

There was a little voice inside my head telling me I had already suffered enough and I deserved a little chocolate cake or a few truffles. I was entitled to be nice to myself. But how much chocolate would it take to make up for the sexual abuse? How many cookies would equal the amount of love I never got? I could buy out every bakery in the world and still feel the loss.

I was doing to myself what my mom had done to me when she gave me chocolate to stop my crying. It was as though I sent myself away to deal with my pain on my own instead of hearing it out, instead of being my own friend.

I defined chocolate as love the same way a hug expresses love. When I was enjoying its creamy goodness, I didn’t think, “Well, I can’t have love, so I’ll settle for chocolate.” Chocolate was my only contact with my mom’s attempt at love. It wasn’t my pain I was running from or covering up—at least not the pain of abuse—it was the pain of being alone. I was comforting myself the only way I knew how.

The truth is that chocolate isn’t love. Chocolate could never be my true friend; it would never love me back. I thought I deserved chocolate, but I really deserved to be protected and validated and comforted. No edible substance is capable of doing that. My pain wasn’t caused by chocolate depravation so mountains of chocolate couldn’t remove it.

I needed to face the source of my pain. I faced my past before that, but I faced it intellectually, as though I was making scientific observations. I was emotionally distant from myself the same way my mom had been.

I was dependent on chocolate until I learned to depend on myself. When I learned to connect with me and show myself the compassionate attention that I really craved, I no longer craved desserts. By myself or surrounded by loved ones, I’m never really alone since I have me.

It took me a long time to finally get to the bottom of all the things that kept me addicted to chocolate. Like so many other issues that surround abuse, there were layers to discover. Every layer helped to loosen its hold on me, but the bottom layer was the foundation to all of it. Now that I have a healthy relationship with me, I have a healthy relationship with chocolate.

Christina Enevoldsen is cofounder of Overcoming Sexual Abuse, an online resource for male and female abuse survivors looking for practical answers and tools for healing. Christina’s passions are writing and speaking about her own journey of healing from abuse and inspiring people toward wholeness. She and her husband live in Los Angeles and share three children and four grandchildren.

[read Christina's story here]

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11 comments
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  1. Chocolate “depravation”–yes, that’s a good description of what happens when people give things instead of love.

  2. ‘When I learned to connect with me and show myself the compassionate attention that I really craved, I no longer craved desserts’
    ‘Now that I have a healthy relationship with me, I have a healthy relationship with chocolate.’

    That explains a lot. When I’m doing good at allowing myself to feel I don’t want to have chocolate or sweet things, and when I’m more conscious of being compassionate for myself that just just because I was or am in pain does not make me bad because of how it freezes me up inside… it’s the same.

    However I have been rewarding myself for sticking with this journey with yummy things. I wonder if there’s another kind of reward that’s healthy or a way of showing’ myself the compassionate attention’?

  3. This will probably sound a tiny bit off-topic, but chocolate rejects me in a major way.
    When I eat it I break out in a rash, start itching all over, get a swollen and sore throat. Sometimes I eat it anyway, the fake stuff isn’t as bad as REAL chocolate, but sometimes the itching is present then too. Hershey bars are the worst of the fake chocolate candy in terms of my reaction to it.
    I have a relationship w/ popcorn instead of chocolate. And soda pop. However, I’m not sure if it’s for the reason of keeping myself hidden. I always thought I just have an addictive personality.

  4. So many of these things resonated with me and made me feel sad, want chocolate, want a cig, want a hug and feel like someone had just told me one of the answers to my life. I had no sexual abuse from any family members but plenty of emotional abuse and other stuff from my teanage years onwards that caused a lot of hurt, pain and loneliness.

  5. MZC,
    The way I made the connection that I thought chocolate WAS love was when my daughter was having a hard day. I wanted to help her feel better, so I offered her the last piece of chocolate fudge cake since I wanted to offer her my “best”. Before that, I thought it was a substitute for love, but it was actuallly the way my mom “loved” me. It actually was the best she could give me, though what I craved was a real relationship. No matter her intentions, I was still deprived.

    Louise,
    I DID THAT TOO!!!! LOL! One day I was having a hard time and decided that I would be “nice” to myself by not doing laundry (which I REALLY needed to do). As soon as I told myself that I could put that off, it occurred to me that it wouldn’t be so nice when I tried to get dressed the next day and I didn’t have any clean clothes. Being “nice” to myself today wasn’t really nice for me. I decided that the best way to really be nice to me was to make sure I was taken care of for the next day. It occurred to me that I did that in so many things. Instead of real self-care, I was sabotaging myself. Sometimes it was with unwise spending and sometimes it was with food.

    Now I express love to myself in a healthier way by asking myself if I would care for my child the way I’m caring for myself. That allows me to splurge sometimes but to consider the longer range goals of mental, emotional, physical, financial, relational and spiritual health.

  6. Vicki,
    That’s interesting that you view chocolate as rejecting you. It’s sounds like your body is rejecting it.

    Fiona,
    I’m sorry for all the ways you were hurt. All types of abuse are so harmful. I’m glad you’re making healing connections!

  7. Excellent article, I especially like the fact about addictions being like secret love affairs. That was the most exciting aspect of my addictions be it Alcohol,drugs or porn. The planning and energy (disassociation) it took to find my (fix) and to find the right time to be able to fix. It was such an incredicable high. For me secrets and addictions go hand in hand. I was taught in AA thru the 4th and 5th steps that I had to reveal my secrets to another person so that they would lose their power over my life. That I was only as “sick as my secrets”. But secrets were my life from childhood and some chocolates have been much harder to give up then others.

  8. As I get futher and futher along in this healing process called Healing(recovery). I am becoming more and more aware that without my adddictions (disassociation). I would never have been able to survive my childhood. That my adictions and my pursue of them were the only thing that gave my life any meaning or pleasure. That in some ways my addictions were a gift from God so that I might endure and then find a way to overcome them and heal.

  9. Michael,
    I agree that the coping methods are gifts that saved my life. I’m thankful that I had SOMETHING. It’s tough to have to overcome them, but it beats the alternative of not surviving childhood. Thanks for sharing that.
    Christina

  10. It is amazing how similar our stories are, in some ways, Christina. I’ve been healing on and off for many years and the one thing I still continue to struggle with the most is food. What you are saying here really makes sense… It’s a new way of looking at this life long battle I have had. I was never nurtured by my mother and my father was my main abuser and creepy, too. By the time I reached a certain age, I completely rejected any attempt he made at nurturing or affection. So then I started my secret affair with food. When I started working, I spent all my money on food, hid it from everyone and started binging every chance I got. And, you’re right, no amount of food in the world is ever going to make up for the abuse and neglect I suffered. No amount of treating myself in order to “lick my wounds” is going to work… I think this is an epiphany for me of sorts… Thank you, for sharing so deeply and honestly…

  11. Megan, I’m so glad this spoke to you. Thanks for sharing!
    Christina

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