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My “harmless” addiction

I am addicted.

There’s some on my desk and in my bag. There’s more in the top drawers of both the nightstand beside my bed and the little end table next to my spot on the couch. (There would be some in the glove compartment of our car, if I didn’t think the heat would be a problem.) And of course there’s always, without fail, a substantial backup stash purchased in advance and tucked away, ready and waiting to replenish the depleted stores.

I carry it with me and use it whenever I leave the house – shopping, walking, out for coffee, visiting friends. On the (very rare) occasion that I accidentally forget to bring it, I’m quick to realize my mistake and always return home to pick it up before carrying on with my plans.

I reach for it and use it at the slightest urge, without a moment of thought or consideration as to whether or not I actually need it. If (even in spite of all my precautions) I can’t get my hands on it right away, I run through a range of emotions from frustration to panic to desperation, and concentration on the conversation or task at hand is hindered until I’m able to address the craving.

And my addiction?

My “harmless” addiction is to lip balm.

lip balm

OK, so I’m pretty sure you just a) breathed a sigh of relief that I’m ONLY talking about lip balm and not something much more harmful, and/or b) laughed out loud at the ridiculousness of the situation. And it is a little funny, I’ll admit.

But you know what?

For me, it’s still an addiction.

I’ve openly admitted and joked about my lip balm addiction (I mean, big deal, right?!), and have been alternately questioned and teased about it by friends and family. Lip balm has always been a great stocking stuffer idea for me – as a matter of fact, one Christmas Peter bought a whole carton of my brand-of-choice at the time, wrapped it up, and (only half jokingly) left it for me under the tree. “It’s only practical,” he said pragmatically. And a friend once asked me with a quizzical look on his face, as I pulled a tube of lip balm out of my bag and applied it for quite probably the hundredth time in the same evening, “Why do you do that?”

I didn’t know what to say. Because it feels good when I wear it? Because it DOESN’T feel good when my lips are dry? Because I like the taste? Because I need to have something to do with my hands? Because I’m used to doing it? Because?

But in spite of the odd uncomfortable or embarrassing moment connected to this little foible of mine, I never had a particularly compelling reason to want to quit using lip balm. I mean, good grief, we’re not talking about something BAD, are we?! It’s not like I can’t get through the day without drugs or alcohol or gambling or something even more unmentionable, right?! It’s just lip balm, folks! Get a grip.

Then this week something – actually two things – happened to change my mind.

The first was discovering – through a friend’s advice, some anecdotal evidence, and my own further research – that my beeswax lip balm (or more accurately, the propolis that’s often mixed in with beeswax) could very well be triggering an allergic reaction and causing the skin condition around my mouth that’s been tormenting me for months.

But the second – and quite possibly more alarming of the two – was the sense of panic, anxiety, and even fear that washed over me as I contemplated even the notion of giving up my beloved lip balm.

If it was only a matter of addressing a relatively minor (though frustrating) skin condition, the answer would be obvious. There are plenty of non-beeswax varieties of lip balm on the market that wouldn’t trigger an allergic reaction – I could easily switch to one of those, clear up the problem, and carry on with business as usual.

But I think it’s bigger than that. Because if it’s really, truly, just lip balm, then why am I so afraid?

That my natural, unbidden response to something so seemingly benign was so over-the-top irrational made me realize that this is about more than just clearing up a temporary skin condition. I recognize that it’s time, NOW, for me to ditch this addiction and take back control of my behaviour.

So on Monday night I gathered up every last tube of the stuff and moved them all out of reach so that I wouldn’t forget and grab one by mistake. Since then I’ve been using some medicated creams and a bit of petroleum jelly now and then for moisture – but no lip balm – and I’ll be darned if my skin isn’t starting to heal!

I’ll confess that, in spite of the immediate reward of healthier (and less painful) skin, making this new choice is a challenge. Even while writing this post I found myself, out of pure habit, reaching several times towards the spot where I usually keep a tube of lip balm, and getting irritated that I couldn’t find it before remembering that, oh yeah, I’m not doing that anymore.

But I’m going to carry on and make this happen, because I refuse to be controlled, defined by, or dependent on any substance or habit.

Even if it’s just lip balm.

Do you struggle with a “harmless” addiction?
Please share!

NaBloPoMo September 2014

Laurel Regan – Writer, tangler, iPhoneographer, cat herder, learner of French and Italian, crocheter, needle felter, Growlita, iFan, on-and-off politics junkie, 80s music trivia freak, ongoing work in progress.

{ 32 comments… add one }

  • That’s so weird another similarity! Mine is cherry flavored chapstick but that’s where the similarities end though because I am not giving up my chapstick! My brother does it too and so did my father when was alive. I never realized it as a habit though because part of the Felty’s Syndrome is something called Sjogren’s disease. It’s where your body no longer produces saliva (&also tears) that means my mouth is constantly dry and so are my lips. I did get that panicky feeling though at just thought of it!
    Rena McDaniel-The Diary of an Alzheimer’s Caregiver recently posted… AROUND ABOUT CHARLESTONMy Profile

    • Laurel Regan
      Twitter:
      September 4, 2014

      I can see how one would NEED lip balm in a case like that! I would imagine staying hydrated is pretty important as well.
      Laurel Regan recently posted… My My Profile

  • nabanita
    Twitter:
    September 3, 2014

    haha mine too…I absolutely absolutely need it with me…
    nabanita recently posted… Your Birthday Or Mine?My Profile

  • Manu Kalia September 3, 2014

    Lol now that’s cute. My daughter would love it too
    Manu Kalia recently posted… Low Back Flexibility Exercise Using Tennis BallsMy Profile

  • Ray September 3, 2014

    While I use Carmex, in the squeeze tubes, usually cherry, I am right there with you. I have them by my chair, in my desk drawers, both the truck (actually two there), the wife’s car console, the boat, a couple in the little thing that everything gets stashed in by the door. I hate the dry lips that happen with out – in pretty much all seasons. And when not at work or not blogging, I pretty like to be outside or sitting in a front of a moving air of some sort – so a much needed aide. I should by stock!
    Ray recently posted… Fall – Cricket ChirpMy Profile

    • Laurel Regan
      Twitter:
      September 4, 2014

      That’s what I was thinking – buying stock might be a very sound investment for us lip balm addicts! ;)
      Laurel Regan recently posted… My My Profile

  • elly stornebrink
    Twitter:
    September 4, 2014

    LOL That’s too funny Laurel! I thought you were going to say Zentangle! I think I am addicted too to a certain degree as I have a saying, “Don’t leave home without it!” based on the commercial about a credit card (I saw years ago on TV). ;) However, did you know petroleum jelly is made out of “waxy petroleum material that formed on oil rigs”! I would rather use a good brand of lip balm – there are several though unfortunately I just misplaced/dropped/lost one and only have one at the moment. I usually have several. The ‘lost’ one is ‘Mountain Sky’ – very nice, the one I have in my purse is Burt’s Bees, Ultra Conditioning. Just remember that ‘natural’ isn’t necessarily 100% natural; only 10% give or take has to be ‘natural’ in order to claim it so! ;)
    elly stornebrink recently posted… “Word-less” WednesdayMy Profile

    • Laurel Regan
      Twitter:
      September 4, 2014

      LOL, while I do LOVE Zentangle I haven’t quite reached the point where I can’t go a minute without it! ;)

      I’d far rather use more natural beauty products; however, so many of the natural lip balms contain beeswax which is most likely what’s triggering my skin reaction. Plus, I’d really rather not be dependent on anything, natural or not! I’m trying to use the petroleum jelly very sparingly as a bridge to get me through until my lips are totally healed, then I’ll see what happens from there.
      Laurel Regan recently posted… My My Profile

      • elly stornebrink
        Twitter:
        September 4, 2014

        Laurel, I would make sure it was the beeswax before you bid ‘adieu’ to all your lip balms: sounds like you have quite a collection after all? ;) Let me know what you discover as I certainly am interested to know. Thanks! <3
        elly stornebrink recently posted… Talented Thursday: Blogging and …?My Profile

        • Laurel Regan
          Twitter:
          September 5, 2014

          I do have quite a collection, but they’re all exactly the same brand/kind – and they’re all made with beeswax! I just this evening bought some of the vegan “None of Your Beeswax” lip balm from Lush to have on hand in case of emergencies, and it doesn’t seem to be causing any kind of reaction, so I’m pretty sure it was the beeswax that was the problem.
          Laurel Regan recently posted… Photo Friday: NightfallMy Profile

  • Anne Louise Bannon September 4, 2014

    Hey. It doesn’t matter if it’s only lip balm. If it’s an addiction and you’re freaking out about not having it, then it’s probably better to do without. Says the woman who has an ongoing illicit affair with her fountain pens.
    Anne Louise Bannon recently posted… Episode 77 – A Couple Quick EmailsMy Profile

  • Beloo Mehra September 4, 2014

    Hmm…this is interesting, Laurel. I wish you good luck as you kick this addiction out! I really like how you say at the end – “because I refuse to be controlled, defined by, or dependent on any substance or habit.” Take care!

  • PhenoMenon
    Twitter:
    September 4, 2014

    One man’s meat is another man’s poison as they say. My harmless addiction to picking up small interesting things online drives my better half crazy :)

    PhenoMenon
    http://phenomenal-cuisines.throodalookingglass.com/2014/09/panna-cotta-with-an-indian-twist/
    PhenoMenon recently posted… Panna Cotta with an Indian TwistMy Profile

  • Joesph Lalonde
    Twitter:
    September 4, 2014

    You might consider my “addiction” to Reese’s Peanut Butter Eggs a harmless addiction, except to my waistline.
    Joesph Lalonde recently posted… Making Better DecisionsMy Profile

    • Laurel Regan
      Twitter:
      September 4, 2014

      Oh, those are GOOD. I can understand that addiction! But I appreciate your point about moderation – it, along with balance, is so important!
      Laurel Regan recently posted… My My Profile

  • Roshan Radhakrishnan
    Twitter:
    September 4, 2014

    I think my addiction would be cups of flavoured teas – blueberry, peach, mango, cinnamoN. Just stuff which is different :)
    P.S. I should probably consider a lip balm now that you mention it :D
    Roshan Radhakrishnan recently posted… Mahabali is coming to town!My Profile

  • Corinne Rodrigues
    Twitter:
    September 4, 2014

    The moment you started talking about lip balm, I made the connection with the allergy you had mentioned, Laurel. I’m glad that it is clearing up.
    I like how you processed this further and have made me think of my many harmless addictions. One of them is the newly acquired habit of attempting to finish reading a book a day! Not so harmless for my eyes, is it?

    • Laurel Regan
      Twitter:
      September 4, 2014

      I am envious of your ability to read a book a day – maybe if I could peel myself away from the internet for awhile I could manage that too, LOL!
      Laurel Regan recently posted… My My Profile

  • Sammy D September 4, 2014

    Holy cow, Laurel!!! I was laughing and nodding because I have the same penchant for always having a tube of lip balm “at the ready” and I buy my favorite by the handful because stores carry it so sporadically!

    But I cringed when I got to the part about your skin irritation. Thank goodness you figured it out. I’ve had that happen with several essential oils, sun screens and lotions. Either I’ll have an instantaneous reaction or will wear something for a few months then begin an allergic reaction. No fun!!

    I used to be addicted to a certain brand of spearmint gum and bought it by the 24-pak. Until my orthodontist told me the constant chewing over the years, no doubt, contributed to my jaw misalignment and chronic inflammation.

    “everything in moderation” is a quote that always comes back to haunt me when I don’t heed it’s warning!!

    (Try Vit E oil or olive oil on your lips for a change of pace – it’s not the same sensation as balm or petroleum jelly, but does give a soothing alternative when you are at home).
    Sammy D recently posted… Chihuly Spires at the Botanic GardensMy Profile

    • Laurel Regan
      Twitter:
      September 4, 2014

      I find it so odd how our bodies sometimes decide that they don’t like a particular product, even if we’ve been using it for years with no issue. Keeps us on our toes, that’s for sure! And you are so right about moderation – I need to learn that with regard to lip balm, as even though I want to break my dependency on it, I know I will still need it from time to time (in dry/cold weather, etc.), so I can’t get rid of it entirely. My goal is to ditch the habit, but still be able to use it when truly needed. It’s going to be an interesting experiment!

      My sister also suggested olive oil – I think I will give that a try, as it’s always something we have in the house. Thank you!
      Laurel Regan recently posted… My My Profile

  • Diane September 4, 2014

    There’s nothing like balm for the . . . soul . . .
    Diane recently posted… The Uninvited GuestMy Profile

  • ElaineLK September 4, 2014

    Wow. I do have something similar, though I use it only a couple of times a day…baby oil. Every morning after I wash my face and shower and every night before I go to bed, I have to apply baby oil to my face and neck. (Also after running or other exercise.) I just can’t stand the dry, pulling sensation in my skin if I don’t. It’s one of those things I need to _always_ have on hand and have to be sure to replace before I run out. If I get in bed and remember I haven’t applied it, I have to get up and do it or I start feeling that awful dry sensation and can’t sleep. I sure hope my body doesn’t ever decide to rebel against it. It does have a few drawbacks, though: the necklines of my clothes (and my pillowcases) eventually get stained from it, and I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve been out in the morning when people (usually in stores or doctor’s offices) ask me (1) if it’s hot out or (2) if I’ve been working out, because my neck looks sweaty to them. I’m always amazed that people are nervy enough to comment on that–but that’s another story!

    • Laurel Regan
      Twitter:
      September 4, 2014

      People really can be nervy, can’t they?! That sort of thing never fails to surprise me. Here’s to no body rebellion so you can continue doing what you need to do! :)
      Laurel Regan recently posted… My My Profile

  • Lux
    Twitter:
    September 4, 2014

    You’re not alone in this addiction.
    Lux recently posted… Envy KillsMy Profile

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