Why do I brush my teeth every day?
Even two times a day?
Is it because I feel pressured by my peers or parents or spouse?
Is it because it’s the “right thing to do?”
Is it to fit in or be liked or accepted?
The truth is, it may be for all those reasons and many others.
I brush my teeth a couple times a day, in the morning and at night, because, if/when I don’t, I do feel pressure from my spouse (more like a “get out of my face” nudge).
Brushing my teeth is “the right thing to do,” both for me and for those around me.
If I don’t brush my teeth, the likelihood is high that I won’t fit in, be liked, or accepted. After all, who wants to be around someone with bad breath or rotten teeth and gums?
Brushing My Teeth & Sexual Addiction
But how does all of this talk about brushing my teeth relate to recovery from sexual addiction?
For me, brushing my teeth can be directly correlated to doing my Step work.
When I don’t do my Step work, my attitude, my demeanor, my whole way of being begins to stink.
When I don’t do Step work, my wife and family feel it. They don’t always realize it’s tied to the lack of effort or commitment on my part, but they can tell something is not right.
My attitude is poor, my temper is short, and my connection with them and with God is just off (even if I want to be close to them).
When I don’t do my Step work, it’s hard to be around me. Instead of working on my own issues and challenges, I tend to pass those things on to others or want to point out what they are doing wrong so I don’t have to deal with my own mess.
It reminds me of the quote in the 12 & 12 that says, “. . . every time we are disturbed, no matter what the cause, there is something wrong with us. If somebody hurts us and we are sore, we are in the wrong also.” (Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, p.90)
8 Reasons why you should be brushing your teeth (and working the Steps) daily
As I contemplated the analogy of brushing my teeth daily and doing my Step work, I decided to look up “reasons to brush your teeth every day.”
It was interesting what I found, especially as I compare it to daily Step work.
Here’s the list of reasons to make teeth-brushing (and Step work) a daily practice:
1. Maintaining a fresh breath
When I don’t brush my teeth regularly, bacteria build up occurs in the mouth which can cause a variety of problems.
How does this relate to Step work?
When I don’t work my steps, anger, fear, resentment and blame can really build up, causing me to react in negative ways.
Granted, I may not be “acting out” by missing one day of Step work, but I’m allowing addictive behaviors to build up. Addictive behaviors, for me, are synonymous with negative emotions, which can lead to lust, which ultimately leads to acting out (see the Addiction Relationship).
To prevent bacteria building up, make sure to brush your teeth twice a day as well as chewing sugar free gum after each meal.
If I want to prevent the addictive cycle from having control over my life, I’ll want to work the Steps because I realize that the prevention of addictive behaviors, or at least dealing with these character defects in positive, healthy ways, will keep me safe.
Step work, for me, keeps me centered on God instead of focusing completely on my own needs & desires. It has to be a daily practice.
2. Prevents gum disease
You are at risk of plaque build-up on the teeth when you don’t brush often. Plaque is an accumulation of bacteria and food that occurs in everyone’s mouth.
What disease is prevented by working my Steps one day at a time?
I’m sure I could come up with a pretty detailed list, but I’ll keep it simple and straightforward.
The disease I’m trying to give to God is “the toxicity of lust.”
It’s all around me.
If I’m not working on a positive sobriety and progressive victory over this disease, it will overcome me (as it has for most of my life).
Addictive behaviors will build up, then I’ll go to coping with those feelings by taking lust hits and justifying. Then it’s just a matter of time before I feel powerless over lust and give into the pull of acting out to “feel better.”
This is the addictive cycle for me!
Since I now recognize what it is, wouldn’t practicing a positive sobriety by working the Steps be a no-brainer?
However, this plaque can lead to Gingivitis, a yellow lining on the base of the tooth that meets the gum. This is often the first stage of gum disease which causes inflammation of the gums and bleeds when you brush them.
Sounds too familiar. The plaque of lust addiction can and will lead to much more grave issues (pornography, masturbation, affairs, prostitution, and the list can go on and on).
3. Removes teeth stains
Toothpaste contains mild abrasives that removes debris and surface stains such as include calcium carbonate, aluminium oxides dehydrated silica gels, phosphate salts hydrated and silicates.
What does working the Steps do to prevent the stains to my soul?
If I’m working the Steps and really digging into my own stuff, I’m often doing a spot check inventory and a daily inventory. These self-assessments help me clearly see where I’m off.
When I’m not doing Step work, it’s easy to pass my issues on to others: my wife, my children, my co-workers, the neighbor’s dog, you name it. It’s always someone else’s fault.
4. Reduces your chances of getting a heart attack or stroke
The Bacteria build-up from your mouth can travel down into the bloodstream, increasing the likelihood of cholesterol build up in the arteries. This can therefore elevate the chances of getting a stroke or heart attack.
How does this apply to Step work?
For me, the chances of divorce, loneliness, legal issues, and severe pain and loss are what I’m inviting when I don’t work my Steps.
That may sound severe, but it’s the truth for me.
When I don’t work recovery, in many ways I’m choosing to do things my own way.
I’m sure there are many people who don’t brush their teeth every day that never get a heart attack or stroke.
There are also many people who drink from time to time that never become alcoholics.
However, for me, the challenges I deal with in relation to lust have become addictive where “once is too many times and a thousand times is never enough.”
Taking one small sip of lust can and has and will lead to more of the same until it will be out of control.
The solution? – surrendering my will to God’s by working my recovery one day at a time.
5. Be kissable
Let’s face it, who wants to kiss someone who has a smelly breath or food in their teeth?
And let’s face it, who really wants to be close to someone who’s a sexaholic who’s not practicing recovery?
For me, the more my wife learns about addiction and recovery, the more distant she becomes when she can feel that I’m not in a good place.
I become repulsive to her.
Reminds me of this funny scene in Nacho Libre:
Brushing your teeth is the most effective way to get rid of bacteria in your mouth, remove food.
“Working the Steps” is the most effective way to get rid of bacteria in my mind, attitude, and behavior.
6. Saves you money
Curing is always more expensive than the cure, and is usually a lot more hard work!
Wow, how true this has been for me.
Curing the addiction and the consequences of my choices has been really expensive, both in time and money.
But if I’m willing to work the Steps, even for 15-20 minutes a day, the return on that time investment has been tremendous.
Not only does it start to repair the trust I’ve lost from my wife due to my selfish and thoughtless choices, but it also helps me see things more clearly and realize when I’m off.
Brushing your teeth twice a day will not only improve the your gum and teeth health, but it will help in preventing problems in the future, ultimately leaving you with reduced dental bills.
Working the Steps will do the same: help me improve my emotional health and also prevent problems from reoccurring in the future, ultimately leaving me with reduced therapist and attorney bills.
7. Have a healthy baby
Gum disease has been shown to increase the chance of premature birth and low birth weight. If you are pregnant, keep in mind that the bacteria build-up from in your mouth from not brushing your teeth can get into the bloodstream of your baby, putting them in risk. It can also be one of the many causes of delayed conception and impotence.
How does not working the Steps affect my wife and family?
I’ve seen it too frequently that how I’m acting can often be almost a direct mirror for how my kids are acting.
If I’m being a jerk, yelling, and blaming, guess what my kids end up doing?
It’s a contagious cycle.
Just the other day, my younger son did something silly. My older son immediately reacted by yelling at him, scolding him and shaming him.
And guess what I did to my older son? The exact same thing.
And guess where he’d learned it? Yep, by watching me and being the recipient of that same emotional abuse.
The disease of addiction (or emotional un-health) seems to be passed down from generation to generation. By working the Steps on a daily basis, it seems to me that I only increase the chances that my kids will have a better and more clear path to emotional health.
8. Prevent Dementia
Some studies have shown that poor gum health increases your risk of developing dementia by a 30% to 40%.
I don’t know about all the studies in relation to the disease of sexual addiction, but I’m sure there are many.
Studies show, though, that the number one cause of divorce is tied to sexual addiction (infidelity).
“Healthy marriages are good for couples’ mental and physical health. They are also good for children; growing up in a happy home protects children from mental, physical, educational and social problems. However, about 40 to 50 percent of married couples in the United States divorce.” (source)
Other reasons for divorce include “lack of communication,” “constant arguing,” “unrealistic expectations,” “lack of intimacy,” “lack of equality,” “not being prepared for marriage,” and “abuse.”
Wow, from my perspective ALL of those reasons can be tied to sexual addiction and it’s ripple effects.
Step work where I dig into my own issues, where I self-assess, and where I look to God and others for healthy support can be a preventative tool for these issues.
Working the Steps is hard.
Working the Steps takes time.
Working the Steps can be painful.
Working the Steps is definitely uncomfortable.
Working the Steps is practicing a “new normal.”
But, just like brushing my teeth on a daily basis, the rewards for working the Steps every day far outweigh all the issues that will come by not taking the time to work them.
As we say at the end of every 12-Step meeting – “It works when I work it.”
What’s been your experience?
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