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My Two-Pack-a-Day Habit

I have a weird nervous tic—chewing my lip. To get me to stop that, my dentist suggested I chew gum instead. He even recommended a specific brand — Trident — and told me to make sure to get gum sweetened with xylitol because it’s better for you than other artificial sweeteners.

I kind of wish I hadn’t taken his advice.

When I still had a Costco membership, I bought gum in boxes like this. • Photo courtesy of Costco.

When I still had a Costco membership, I bought gum in boxes like this. • Photo courtesy of Costco.

In the years since he told me that — and it’s been at least five years, because I was still at the newspaper then — I’ve gone through countless packs of gum.

And I still chew my lip.

This chewing gum costs from $1 to $1.25 a pack when I buy them in a three-pack. I don’t like the sandpapery feeling in my mouth after I’ve been at it all day. And it makes my jaw hurt. But I was nevertheless up to two packs a day by the time I decided to quit.

I made the decision after I discovered that at that dosage, the gastric effects of xylitol are almost as remarkable as those of the infamous sugar-free gummy bears.

That was probably TMI. Sorry.

At first I thought maybe I was addicted, but then I realized that I don’t have any desire to chew gum when I’m out. Writer’s group meetings, church, even five-day conferences all go by with no desire for chewing. But as soon as I’m back at my desk, I gotta chew.

So it’s a habit. Not an addiction.

Yesterday the last wrapper from the last piece of gum in the last pack went in the dustbin. Now I need to figure out how to do my work without my jaws working overtime. Maybe if I can get the hang of it, I can even stop the lip-chewing also.


Have you ever successfully broken a bad habit? How did you do it?


About Kristen Stieffel

Kristen Stieffel is a writer and freelance editor specializing in speculative fiction. She's a member of the Editorial Freelancers Association, Christian Editor Connection, and American Christian Fiction Writers.

One comment on “My Two-Pack-a-Day Habit

  1. I can’t chew gum – once there is gum in my mouth I can’t stop chewing and I get a jaw-ache in half an hour. But our dentist recommended gum with xylitol, too. I used to bite my nails and was able to stop when I realized it was the need for smooth edges that drove me. I started carrying nail clippers with me everywhere and the instant I felt a rough edge, I clipped it smooth. However, the habit transferred to into picking the skin around my fingers (which I only do when stressed) which my daughter now does, too. 😦

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