Mosquitoes love me. I have been bitten while drenched in commercial bug repellent. I have been devoured just visiting my backyard for less than three minutes. I have even been bitten through two layers of clothing, one of which was denim—while drenched in commercial bug repellent.
No matter what I did, mosquitoes seemed to have written in the front of their Big Book of Bloodsuckers Anonymous that they were willing to go to any lengths to get a piece of me. I eventually resigned myself to being one of those people who will always spend summers scratching at multiple itchy bumps.
A few years ago, however, I was looking for a way to use up an overabundance of garden herbs, and your friendly neighborhood search engine suggested using them to make homemade bug repellent. The recipe was a little labor intensive, the results would be a little messy, and the application would be time consuming, but I was desperate enough to try anything. So I followed the recipe for “bug balm.”
Wow. Labor-intensive, messy, and time-consuming or not: bug balm changed my life. Whenever I applied it before going outside, even on the darkest nights clogged with heat and humidity, it was like I had just miraculously fallen off the mosquito radar.
In fact, one time, I went hiking with someone who rarely wore bug repellent. I was armored up with bug balm, however. The mosquitoes avoided me and went for him instead.
Swatting away the winged fiends, he asked, incredulous, “Is this what it’s like to be you?”
“Not anymore!” I laughed. “Now I have bug balm!”
It has become a kind of joke with my kids: no matter how brief a time I am planning to spend outside in the spring, summer, or fall—I bug balm up. Yes, it’s more labor-intensive, messier, and more time-consuming than spraying myself with a commercial repellent but nothing else works. The labor, mess, and time feel a lot better than being covered in itchy bites for up to seven months out of the year.
What on earth does this have to do with recovery from disordered eating—or any addiction for that matter?
I had a phone call recently with someone who is still pretty new to recovery from disordered eating. She asked me about a difficult family situation I’ve been facing, and so I was honest, open, and willing to share.
“You are going through so much,” she remarked. “I don’t understand how you’re not eating over this.”
I couldn’t help but laugh. “I already feel bad! Why would I want to feel worse?”
It wasn’t until I hung up the phone that I realized the miracle of recovery that had taken place in the four short years since I’d begun working my program. Somewhere along the way, I’d come to believe that food—the thing I thought was making me feel better—was actually making me feel a lot worse. If I really want to feel better, I have to work my program and not use food for anything God didn’t design it to do.
The path to this transformation was not easy. In fact, one could say it has been and still is labor-intensive, time-consuming, and a bit messy. However, just like I prefer to live without the burden of mosquito bites, I also have found that I prefer to live without all the ways that overeating makes me feel worse.
Where once I had resigned myself to both eating and being eaten, I have since acted my way into a new way of thinking. No matter the labor, time, and mess, bug balm and recovery pay off a great return on investment.
Nothing heals the isolation of addiction like a deep and wide network of supportive relationships. Maybe it’s time to find or start an in-person Catholic in Recovery group near you. Learn more today.
Erin McCole Cupp is grateful to be recovering from compulsive overeating, binge eating behaviors, and developmental and betrayal trauma. She writes and speaks about mental health and addiction recovery from a Catholic perspective. Check out her course “Filled with Good: Theology of the Body for Food Addicts” at erinmccolecupp.podia.com.