It all started because I love chocolate. And because I’m an alcoholic. I’ve been sober for twenty-four years and have wavered just three times. Wavered I said, not used.

Here’s what happened. It was Saturday night. We were having dinner, my roommate, ex-boyfriend, pseudo husband and I. My dog had hurt her back. I was sick with worry. Let me explain what worry feels like to me. Imagine someone takes a baseball bat, swings it high above their head and then brings it down across your stomach like they were hitting a fastball. Or your veins were pumped with lighter fluid and your skin caught fire. My body feels the pain of worry like wearing an inside out porcupine skin. Hundreds of quills pointed inward and my life pressing against them.

You get it, right, how I drift through life. Look, don’t get me wrong; I’m not all doldrums and gloom. I’m pretty much a glass-half-full kind of gal. So there I was, stressed about my dog, and worry saw the opening. It dragged me, as it does, down memory lane back to when my dachshund, Lili, was sick. If there are half a million minutes in a year and Lili was sick for 10 years, well, you get the picture. If that wasn’t enough for one night, worry then dragged up my mom. I was eleven when she was diagnosed. “Don’t sit on her lap,” I’d tell my sisters, she might die, don’t hold her hand she might die, don’t hug her too tight, I would tell them, worried she might die. On and on went the chapters of growing up with death coating the toes of childhood like sticky black tar.

It’s all about context when you’re an addict, and worry had me back there, back to being 11 with a mom who was dying. I reached across the table and took my roommate’s glass of merlot. Held the glass between my hands like I would hold a baby’s face. I put it under my nose. The blackberries, vanilla and plums were like a sedative. I inhaled as much as I could and resented my out breath for getting in the way.

“God, I want some alcohol.” I said to my pseudo husband. He’d lit candles for atmosphere, not romance. An acorn shaped eraser sat next to a charcoal drawing of a lion he’d done earlier in the day. My hair was tied up in a wet ponytail. I wore pink silk sweats and a white tank top with no bra. My bony elbows were resting on the 7-foot table. My worry screamed for alcohol. Fire ants marched through my veins biting and chewing on my nerves, demanding alcohol. A 12-foot python of need uncurled itself in my stomach, jonesing for alcohol. Tears were dripping out of my eyes, onto my food. “Have some chocolate,” he said, “to take the edge off.”

I wanted booze to take the edge off, drugs to take the edge off, caffeine, a smoke or a fuck, to take the edge off. I wanted warm rain to fall from the sky and melt my edges off. I wanted my roommate’s love to take the edge off, I wanted to burn or drown my edges off and, if that didn’t work I wanted to murder them, my edges that is. “Breath,” I heard myself say. You have your one vice. One bad habit, one weakness to rely on, one vice to help calm the storms of being me, one vice to filter out the noise, one vice to drown the worry. Thank god I have one vice.

“Here you go,” my roomy said. He placed a bar of chocolate by my elbow. He wiped a tear from my cheek with his left index finger. Then took the wine glass from my hands, “I’ll take that,” he said.

I ate a side of dairy milk chocolate with my salmon. It was so good. I ate more chocolate for dessert with my tea. Worry be damned. By the time I got into bed, I was calm. Until 3.00am that is, when I woke with my face on fire. Angry welts on my cheeks and neck stared back at me from the bathroom mirror. “Oh, god.” I said out loud. I knew what was happening, it had happened a few years back with scented candles. Then last year with eggs, and lavender body lotion, and laundry detergent, and soap, and red dye and the list goes on. Shit. No. I watched tears spill down my face as I remembered the allergy doctor from a year ago. “You’re system is so sensitive,” he said, “In the future you might have an issue with chocolate.” I brushed him off at the time. I mean who’s allergic to chocolate. And God would never take my last vice.

My Last Vice