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.
I’m Christina Enevoldsen and I’m the cofounder of Overcoming Sexual Abuse and the author of The Rescued Soul: The Writing Journey for the Healing of Incest and Family Betrayal. I’m a Strategic Interventionist and Certified Professional Life Coach with a specialty Life Story Certification. As a survivor of incest, sex trafficking and a 21-year long abusive marriage (now remarried to an emotionally healthy, loving and supportive man), I bring personal experience, empathy, and insight as well as professional training to help childhood sexual abuse survivors thrive.
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