Two out of three Columbia pharmacists tell me I am making up a disease. Apparently, most medical professionals don't consider lip balm addiction a valid problem.
I keep one in the pocket of every jacket, preferably jackets with zippers so I don't lose the lip balm. The same goes for each of my bags. There's also one in my car, one on my nightstand and two on my dresser: one to use before I leave the room and one to put in my pocket if I'm not wearing a jacket or carrying a bag. I would keep one at work if I thought no one else would use it. When you crave lip balm as badly as I do, you start suspecting everyone of wanting to steal it. I need lip balm. If I could marry it, I would, Pee-wee Herman-style.
I keep beer in the fridge. And that's the only place I keep it.
It wasn't until I began to document my consumption of lip balm and beer for two weeks for an infographics project that I realized I have a problem. I am addicted to chapstick, and I mean chapstick in the lip balm sense, not the actual brand ChapStick.
Lip balm lulled me into a cheerful dependence with its many flavors, SPF 5, cooling and shininess. But now, I start to panic when a few hours pass since my last application.
Not to make light of alcoholism. It is a serious disease that ruins livers and lives, contributes to unemployment and homelessness and perpetuates cycles of depression. Lip balm has never caused a rift in a personal relationship, incapacitated me or led to other life-threatening illnesses.
Yet, lip balm has chained me to its moistening powers so that I lose focus when I need to reapply.
When I told people about this, they mostly dismissed my complaint as one of the many ridiculous things I say. It wasn't until a reporter overheard my theory that I discovered other people who share my ailment. Her friend was banned from lip balm by a Walmart pharmacist.
Carissa Rounkles had been using all-natural ChapStick and an organic brand from Clover's, but still felt she was applying too often. The pharmacist told her she shouldn't use any lip balm because it was preventing her lips from creating moisture but that they would start again if left alone.
When I called the Walmart pharmacy, the pharmacist on duty said it is not possible to be addicted to lip balm physically, but maybe psychologically. She then told me they were really busy, probably with people who have actual illnesses.
So, I started calling other pharmacies in town. One Walgreens pharmacist told me no one had ever asked him such a thing. I tried to get him to guess if it's possible to be addicted to lip balm. He mumbled, confused, and said no one could help me there. Another Walgreens pharmacist told me flat out that lip balm addiction is not real. I could not convince him otherwise. He also said I could use any brand of lip balm I wanted because I am talking about a made-up problem.
I did find hope, though, in Google. When I started typing in "chapstick," the first guess it had for me — other than "chapstick," of course — was "chapstick addiction." Gold. Or so I thought until I realized most of the posts were by people like me trying to convince the world that they suffer from a very real disease that the medical community is ignoring.
Apparently, I might be exaggerating. Lip balm addiction is possibly not real and certainly not as serious as real addictions like smoking, cocaine or painkillers. So, the only conclusion I can draw from my infographics project is to quit complaining and drink more beer.
Molly Harbarger is an assistant city editor at the Columbia Missourian and wants to apply some lip balm but is now self-conscious about it.