The Gift of Tooth Brushing

 Photo: huffington post

Photo: huffington post

Every time I get to spend a few hours alone with my significant other I am reminded of just how lucky I am he is mine. Although we share a house and a bed, and both work from home, Fer and I very much have our own lives and enjoy our own space. That’s why we make it mandatory to have at least one date night per week where we aren’t allowed to touch our cell phones for a certain period of time (this is admittedly hard for me haha). As our hot, steamy end of date night winded down on Tuesday night, we were both giddy, laughing, and talking. We had just completed our bedtime rituals – face washing, tooth brushing, face cream, etc. As I lay my head down next to Fer I ran my tongue along my squeaky clean, freshly washed teeth. My mouth tasted like mint and my lips had just been applied Chapstick. I turned to Fer and I said, “You know what I love about sobriety?” He looked at me and said, “What?” “Brushing my teeth,” I said. Fer scrunched up his face, laughed and said, “I know! Never having that gross taste of alcohol in your mouth anymore?” He always knows just what I mean. “YES!” I said.

I had an epiphany in that moment, so profound I made a note on my iPhone to write a blog about it. One memory that is forever imprinted in my brain about drinking is the lack of tooth brushing I did. Gross, right? I mean of course, I brushed my teeth every morning while my head was pounding with a hangover, but during the nights or very early mornings after drinking I would never brush my teeth. There were countless nights where all I could do was crawl into bed with my make-up still in tact and my teeth unbrushed. Other nights I wouldn’t even remember putting myself to bed, but my mouth would remember in the morning. I would wake up with cotton mouth, dry and parched, like a desert in the middle of summer. At the same time, a taste of stale, strong alcohol would linger. Sometimes the taste stayed for hours, even after I brushed my teeth in the morning. Then there were the days that I stayed up all night partying well into the next day. 12pm would roll around and I got the sweater teeth sensation, but I’d still be drinking and wouldn’t care. Surprisingly, my overall oral hygiene wasn’t bad according to the dentist, but I assume that’s because I had kept up with it all my life aside from never drunk brushing.

It came to me on Tuesday night while I was brushing what a gift tooth brushing is. I get to do it whenever I want now. I remember to do it every night before I go to bed and even if I don’t, I don’t wake up with cotton mouth or the disgusting taste of stale alcohol that can’t be erased no matter what flavor of Colgate I use. Tooth brushing, a seemingly simple task that we learn when we’re children and most likely take for granted. While it used to make me feel like my life was out of control, it makes me feel good now. I felt grateful that night. I am grateful that I never have to feel ashamed about when the last time I brushed my teeth was, or be concerned about stale alcohol breath.

It was like all I wanted to do during my drinking years was wash away the disgusting alcohol mouth, but could never do so quick enough. What I didn’t know was that I was washing away more than just plaque. I wanted to wash away the smells and mistakes of the night before.

This realization makes me know just how sure I am that sobriety is for me, that this new way of life is what I was meant for. I don’t have to leave it up to chance whether my teeth will get brushed or not. The decision is in my hands now because I am always coherent. Tooth brushing has evolved from a heavy act of moral and soul cleansing, a desperate attempt to save myself from myself, and my drinking, into what it was always meant to be – a daily act of oral hygiene to prevent cavities and gum disease.

Brushing your teeth – how can something so simple and automatic be something so important to me now? Gratitude is something I am truly convinced I never experienced in my life until I got sober. I am grateful for something as small as having the choice to brush my teeth. When I am able to appreciate tooth brushing, I able to find gratitude in everything.