Confessions of a chocoholic


Dark chocolate brings love at first bite,

In moderation I suppose it’s alright

     The stuff in the cocoa

     Won’t drive you loco

But it might keep you up all the night.

Having failed to take my own advice about chocolate, my sleep suffered last night. 

I’m probably a chocoholic.

Any person who can tell you that they like dark chocolate and specify, for example, that optimal cocoa content is between 70% and 78% is a chocoholic.  I suppose that would be me. 

Anything more than two bites will bring heartburn and reflux and disturb my sleep.  Half a bar will give me a visible tremor, a whole bar will make my heart race.

When I went to Barrow I deliberately failed to bring chocolate with me, but while I was there I found Dove Promises selling for the princely sum of five bucks a bag.  I bought them.  I confined myself to two a week.  When I ate them, I did it right: I didn’t do anything else but sit and let the chocolate melt in my mouth.  I did well with moderation.  If I weren’t a chocolate addict, I would lose control.

Such loss of control, even rarely, distinguishes moderation from addiction.  Five ounces of wine, five days a week, will add years to your life but putting away five or six drinks in a night, even occasionally, will cost you years.  If you use caffeine occasionally, it will be your ally; if you use it regularly you will be its slave.

I actively lobbied to bring no chocolate on the moose hunting trip to Kalgin Island; if it’s dark enough to satisfy my craving, it’s got enough caffeine, theobromine, and theophylline to make me shake, and thus impair my shooting. 

I hadn’t bought any since my return to Sioux City until Friday afternoon when Aliya and I went to the grocery store.  I lost control.

The worst chocoholic I ever met ate two squares of baking chocolate a day with the following philosophy:  chocolate is so good that if you add anything to it you just dilute it, and why would you want to do that?

Still, caffeine is the most benign of the addictive drugs.  If I have a patient who has sleeping difficulty and is drinking, for example (I’m not making this up) sixty-four cups of coffee a day, I’ll tell the patient that the caffeine is murdering sleep and to try going without the caffeine for two weeks.  When I do that, I don’t meet denial, minimization, or projection.

When I tell a patient that alcohol is causing their medical, social, or legal problem, the most common response is denial.  Denial is usually followed by minimization (it doesn’t happen that often, I know a lot of people who drink more than me, that arrest could have happened to anyone) and projection (don’t you drink, Doctor?  Then you don’t have any business talking to me about my drinking.). 

I’ve been advising patients for thirty years not to smoke, drink, or use caffeine.  In all that time no smoker has been able to achieve control over nicotine.  Fewer than a dozen alcoholics have been able to maintain normal drinking without losing control.  In contrast, exactly two caffeine addicts, having successfully withdrawn from high-level daily use backslid.

Caffeine and its cousins, theophylline and theobromine, make chocolate addictive; without those three it just doesn’t taste the same.

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3 Responses to “Confessions of a chocoholic”

  1. Mandy Says:

    Is it really possible to “decaf” chocolate? And, I was a 4 pack a day smoker and quit at 28. Now 58, still no smoke. I always dreamed I was smoking, however. Does it still count? It can be done. My mother smoked for over 40 years and quit. I have lots of friends who were heavy smokers for at least 10 years who quit and never returned 20, 30 years later.

    • walkaboutdoc Says:

      I don’t think decaf chocolate is chocolate, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen it.

      I learned a great deal about nicotine addiction when I talked to you about it many years ago. I still remember the conversation, I’m not sure if you do. Several things stuck in my mind: A nicotine addict will never stop craving the drug, and they can never have just one. Half the relaxation of a cigarette is the deep breathing exercise done with the first puff. Being able to concentrate on the mantra “to quit is to live” is a very powerful thing.

  2. Carlee Says:

    I’ve been loikong for a post like this for an age

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