The Bad Thing You Didn’t Know About Me

I am an addict. 

I didn’t become an addict on purpose.  In fact, like many people battling addictions, I’m not quite sure how I even got this way.  But I am one, and have been for a long, long, long time.  I don’t know that I can ever totally break this habit, but after nearly 27 years of being bound by this addiction, this… dependence, I have to try.  For my sake, and for my family.  For my son.  So I don’t blow his college fund supporting my habit.  The first step, I’ve been told, is admitting to God, to myself, and to others that I am an addict.  And so, I take a deep breath and admit to the world: 

My name is Belle, and I am and addict.  I AM ADDICTED. TO LIP BALM.

 I know!  You feel betrayed.  You thought you knew me.  You’re shocked.  And saddened.  And alarmed.  I understand.  I heard your sharp intake of breath when I admitted the truth.  I’m sorry; I am trying to get better. 

I think my addiction started back in the late ‘70s or early ‘80s when I was in middle school.  My memory going that far back is fuzzy, (after 27 years of this, how could it not be?) but here is what I do recall: It was winter and my lips were chapped.  I asked a classmate if she had any Bonne Bell Lip Smackers; you know the super wet, shiny, glossy kind that made you look like you’d drooled spit, or perhaps bacon grease, all over your lips?  She didn’t.  So I asked another friend if she had any, but all she had to offer was a tube of ChapStick.  It was better than nothing.  After all, it had helped that Susie chick, the one who skied, so I used it.  A few days later I found myself once again in need of something for my lips.  This time, a friend produced a small tub of Blistex Daily Conditioning Treatment (DCT). Again, I took the offering. I didn’t think anything of it…

In hindsight, I should have.  Who could have known that one little hit of Blistex would change my life forever?  I certainly didn’t. But then, at the time, I didn’t know that Blistex DCT was the crack cocaine of lip balms.  

When I was in my freshman year of college, the nation was in the midst of the crack epidemic.  It’s dangers were well known, and school administrators warned students almost daily, “Don’t Do Crack!” 

“Ha!” I thought, “Who needs crack when you’ve got Blistex DCT in your pocket?”  By then I’d been a user for about 6 years.  I could take a hit whenever I needed it to sooth my dry lips.  Whenever I felt the Blistex wearing off, whenever I thought my lips were about to start flaking and falling from my face like leaded paint chips, I’d just dip my finger in the tub of Blistex and smooth on some more. 

I told myself I wasn’t addicted.  I told myself I could quit at any time.  But I was lying.  It got bad.  Really bad.  I had little tubs of Blistex DCT stashed EVERYWHERE.  If you were a stranger to my home, you might have wondered if I was dealing of the stuff.  Tubs covered every surface, in every room. When it was time to clean, there were so many, I didn’t even pick them up, I simply dusted around them.

For those of you who’ve heard the rumors, it’s true:  On more than one occasion, I had to ask my various dates to make a quick detour to the nearest drugstore when I realized I didn’t have my lip balm with me. It wasn’t that I worried I’d kiss one of my dates and they’d pull back in horror asking, “What’s wrong with your lips?  They feel like sandpaper!” because I knew they only felt like sandpaper to me.  The truth was, I could not sit through an entire movie without my lip balm.  As soon as I realized I’d left my house without it, I’d start to panic and say, “Look, do you mind pulling into that CVS pharmacy over there?  I, uh, left something at home and I think we might need it later…”  Few of my dates ever questioned me on this.  I imagine they thought I wanted to pick up a pack of condoms or something.  But oh, were they wrong!

Eventually, the addiction started to worry me, and I’d casually bring it up with my doctors.  “Um, I think I’m addicted to lip balm,” I’d say, red faced, hanging my head in shame. 

“Not possible.” They’d reply.  “You can’t get addicted to lip balm.”

And so I’d leave the doctor’s office feeling worse than ever.  There were no 12-step programs for this sort of thing, because, as the doctor’s claimed, it wasn’t a condition after all.  Only I WAS suffering.

Then one day a concerned friend cornered me, handed me an article ripped from the April 1997 issue of Self Magazine.  “Read THIS” she said pointedly.  I took the paper from her hands and there in big bold type were the words “Lip Balm Addiction” and the text below it “Do your lips feel dry even though you continually reapply your lip balm?”  “Yes!”  I cried, tears streaming down my face!  “They DO!”  And, I realized, I was not alone! 

The article went on to discuss lip balm ingredients, and one in particular, phenol, also known as carbolic acid.  It’s an antimicrobial, which is good.  But it’s also drying, which is bad.  It causes you to reapply and reapply and reapply and reapply your lip balm over and over and over and over again; because your lips always feel dry, because the penol makes them so.  I pulled out the tub of Blistex DCT in my pocket and read the ingredients: 

Active Ingredients
Petrolatum (W/W) 54.86%; Octyl Methoxycinnamate (W/W) 7.3%; Oxybenzone (W/W) 4.5%

Inactive Ingredients
Aloe Vera Extract; Camphor; Candelilla Wax; Cetyl Alcohol; Cocoyl Hydrolyzed Soy Protein; Cocoa Butter; Corn Oil; Flavor; Lanolin; Menthol; Menthyl Anthranilate; Ozokerite; Phenol; Saccharin; Vitamins A &E

And there it was, listed under the inactive ingredients, PHENOL!!!!  The fact that I was an addict, then, clearly wasn’t my fault!

The article suggested alternative balms that lacked this prime offender.  It took me a while, but I eventually found and bought one: Burt’s Beeswax.  When I found the stuff back in 1998, I thought I’d been saved.  I went and thanked my friend for her intervention.  I showed her my new tube of lip balm and told her how it had been hard at first, but I’d finally weaned myself from the Blistex and how I wasn’t using the new lip balm nearly as much as I’d used the old stuff. 

It turns out though, that using Burt’s Beeswax to get over a Blistex addiction is akin to substituting methadone for a heroine addiction.   Methadone, according to the Office of National Drug Control Policy, “reduces the cravings associated with heroin use … but it does not provide the euphoric rush.”  Burt’s Beeswax, I quickly learned, was similar.  It reduced my craving for the Blistex, but it wasn’t nearly as satisfying.  And also like methadone “ultimately, the patient remains physically dependent.”   Which is where I am today, physically dependant on Burt’s Beeswax.  It’s not my fault though.  Even the Burt’s website states:

“You can use it…for a little peppermint tingle. You may want to keep one in your pocket, one in your desk and one in your car. Soon, you’ll hold them close to your heart.”

In hindsight, it’s kind of obvious, right there, that warning:  you will get addicted to Burt’s Beeswax too!    

If there’s good news in all of this, it’s that,  “it is possible to maintain an addict on methadone without harsh side effects” even with “continuous treatment.”  And so I figure, I’m not really being harmed by my lip balm.  I haven’t noticed any harsh side effects.  And it looks like I can continue using my lip balm as long as I need to.  Maybe, I think, I’m not ready to give up this addiction after all.

These days, if you come to my house you’ll see lots of little yellow tubes of Burt’s Beeswax lying around.  Like the Blistex tubs did before them, they cover almost all the surfaces.  And yes, I dust around them.  But I’m not a dealer, just a user, I swear.

By the way, Burt’s tubes are smaller than the Blistex tubs were, and easier to carry. In fact, I don’t even need a pocket to keep a tube nearby.  That funny lump on my chest?  The one that looks suspiciously like a badly placed third nipple?  That’s my lip balm.  I carry it with me in my bra.  Close to my heart.  Let me know if you need to borrow some.



Filed under 12-step program, addiction, Blistex DCT, Burt's Beeswax, ChapStick, lip balm

19 responses to “The Bad Thing You Didn’t Know About Me

  1. oh. my. god.

    did you write this for me?

    did you know? my shame?

    I was a carmex girl for years… for years.

    until one day I left it at home and I knew that I couldn’t make it from the store to the house without balming up… without carmex there to buy I turned to that little yellow cylinder.. the burt bees… I’ve been hooked ever since… It overpowered my carmex addiction… I’m a burt bees girl now through and through, people can intervene all the want but that shit is MINE!!

  2. Too funny… and true. Now that you’ve brought this to light, all us addicts can start up Lip Balmers Anonymous where we hang out and talk about our various stages of lip dryness and ooh, have you tried Vaseline?

  3. I hear ya! Here’s another measure of how bad your addiction might be: have you ever told your husband, “Don’t kiss me right now! I just put on my lip balm and I don’t to have to put it on AGAIN!”? Yes? No? I’m hoping I’m not the ONLY one…

  4. AbsolutelyBananas, the only time I’ve used vaseline is when I’ve been desperate. Say my lip balm has rolled off the night stand and under the bed and it’s 2 am and I’m not finding it but I need a hit, and somehow my son’s vaseline or aqauphor container ended up on MY nightstand (collector of all things it is)… only then will I use such an inferior drug 😉 It’s the tingle. Must have the peppermint tingle!

    Do you envision that we can bring our balm of choice into these Lip Balmers Anonymous meetings? If so, I’m there! If not, I’ll be home with my little yellow tubes.

  5. I use the little blue and white tins of vaseline.

    They are so cute and non-addictive.

    I have never been addicted to lip balm so it’s hard for me to comment I know, but I am addicted to chocolate so I kind of understand how hard it would be to give up something you love.

    Anyone everbeen addicted to carrots, lettuce or tomatoes?


    Me neither.

  6. Jo Beaufoix – I know someone who used to be addicted to carrots. Or maybe it was some extreme diet she was one. Either way, she ate so many the palms of her hands turned orange! A doctor she worked with spotted the orange hands and had to intervene. Me, I’m aiming for brown. I have a bag of chocolate right here on the desk beside my lip balm.

  7. I’ve never told my husband not to kiss me because I just put it on, but he has complained that my pepperminty goodness interferes with his wine….

  8. tee hee….this was fun to read. LOL I have a friend that is addicted to her lipgloss though…I might need to intervene. 🙂

  9. Thank goodness you didn’t get addicted to nasal spray or eye drops!

    I hope your substitutions work in the long term.

  10. CamiKaos – When winter rolls around, you might suggest your husband switch from wine to hot chocolate with a good dash of rumplemints. Your pepperminty goodness will complement that.

  11. Thanks Corey! And if you intervene with your friends addiction, offer her some alternative. Cold turkey withdrawl is painful. Very painful. I tried it and failed 😉

  12. Kate – I’m glad it’s just lip balm. Nasal sprays and eye drops would be much harder to conceal in my bra. And if they leaked…

  13. Bellevalma.

    Brown sounds good.

    I’ll keep on with the chocolate.


  14. Sara...

    Aaah…I have an addiction, too.
    Years and years ago, my neighbours gave me this Molten Brown freebie, which included a deadly, deadly, deadly gorgeous pot of lip balm. Oh no, this was not any lip balm. This lip balm was sent – believe it or not – from heaven. I discovered it about a year ago, whilst searching through a pile of old junk…
    It wasn’t long before I was hooked. I still am now. Arrrh…
    I need the stuff…
    Infact, you know that thing that some people do after they’ve applied lip gloss? That…rub-your-lips-together-thing? I do it all the time! Honestly, I must look like some kind of crazy girl, with dry lips, when I don’t have my lip balm.
    I know I’m starting to ramble, but…well…I can’t help it.
    Theres one problem. WHAT AM I GOING TO DO WHEN IT’S RUN OUT??!
    I’ve got the majority of the little pot of gorgeousness intact, but…sooner or later (probably sooner) it’s gonna run out…
    Then what? Oh, dear…

  15. Sara – I just checked and the nearest Molton Brown store isn’t near me at all. Which makes it much easier to avoid the temptation to give that stuff a try. Whew! My only suggestion is to use what you have sparingly and order lots more!

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  17. Katie

    I had about every kind of chapstick you could find at CVS in my purse so I could switch it up every now and again and one day I bought a tin of Rosebud Salve from Sephora and have been using it ever since, I think they make Strawberry too but I haven’t tried it yet. But the Rosebud Salve is amazing I even put it on my cuticles sometimes.

  18. Katie, You know what? I think I got a Sephora catalog in the mail the other day. Now I’m going to have to go look for it.

  19. Kylie

    Im glad Im not alone!! My addictions are lip balm AND hand cream!! I have them everywhere, and no, I wont kiss my fiance if Ive just applied lip balm!! I use everything going and must have at least 20 different varieties in my hand bag, I can quite easily spend £30 a go on lip balms! One tube will just about see me through the week. I start to panic if I cant find my lip balm and have even left work to go home and get more as i lost it, I now keep a stash at work! My boss didnt understand though! I dont know what it is but I have to have it and if Im delayed getting to it Im more crabby than if I cant have a fag! This cant be normal surely?! Never spoken to doctor about it as I think I sound stupid! But people keep telling me it can harm my lips… any truth to this??
    Kylie x

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