12 step program for profanity

12 Step Program for Profanity Addicts

As I’ve mentioned before, my husband and I both suffer from an affliction known by several names: potty mouth, sailor tongue, gutter mouth.

We cuss. A lot.

profanity in front of child

And while there’s research that supports the hypothesis that our proclivity towards profanity actually indicates a higher level of intelligence, there’s no denying the fact that we tread dangerous ground by swearing so much in front of our son. While we haven’t heard our son say a cuss word yet technically, part of the reason for the delay seems to come from the fact that he hasn’t quite learned to enunciate his “sh”s yet. Thank God for multiple ear infections that led to reduced hearing for several months.

So far the only suggested remedy for excessive profanity that looks to have any staying power is the ol’ washing of the mouth with soap. I’m going to take a hard pass on that one. Luckily, I’ve developed a 12 step program for profanity addicts like myself, modeled after the original AA 12 step program.

1. Admitting powerlessness over your addiction

We’ve tried. We really have. But profanity is so ingrained into our lexicon, we don’t even realize that we’re dropping f-bombs left and right. Take this verbatim conversation between Josh and I a few days ago in front of our son:

Me: “Well, we can work on that this weekend. “
Husband: “Yeah, but we’ve gotta f*cking clean up around here too and we aren’t going to have time for everything.”
Me: “Josh!”
Husband: “What?”
Me: “You just dropped an f-bomb in front of James!”
Husband: “No, I didn’t!”
Me: “Yes, you did.”
Husband: “What are you talking about? I promise you I didn’t.”

Y’all. This fool genuinely didn’t remember cussing literally FIVE SECONDS BEFORE.

I realized, at this moment, that we had our work cut out for us.

2. Believing that your husband/wife/partner/baby daddy will help

We had to make a change. I figured that Josh and I could police each other. If we called each other out enough times, surely at some point NOT cussing would become the habit. Right?

3. Realizing that they can’t do shit for you either

I didn’t consider the fact that Josh doesn’t invest as much value into avoiding profanity as I do. His philosophy: He’d rather James hear it from us than some random kid on the street.

My response: at least if he cusses his teacher out at school, we can feign ignorance of where he learned those words and pretend to be just as outraged. But if we’re walking around modifying “shit” to be used as a noun, verb, adjective and adverb all in the same paragraph, we lose a lot of credibility with anyone who has ever heard us utter a complete sentence.

4. Taking an inventory of the times you are most likely to swear or cuss

Maybe then you can try to avoid those situations or be more aware of them. I rarely use profanity at work, even if others around me or doing so. Professional Voice Jennifer doesn’t let me. Situations where I’m more prone to the use of expletives:

  • I’m in the car
  • I’m at home
  • I’m talking to anyone besides my parents or my mother-in-law
  • I’m watching “Game of Thrones”
  • I decide to rap my way through some old school Eminem

So, basically, I just need to find a way to make Professional Voice Jennifer stick around past the end of the work day.

5. Admitting when you mess up

For the flack I give my husband, I’m really not that much better. And I can admit that. In a desperate attempt to maintain half of my vocabulary, I’ve resorted to rationalizations when I unintentionally utter an expletive in front of my son. I tell myself that maybe our swear words have become as normal and everyday as “the” or “a” to our son and he has no interest in saying any of them. I tried to convince myself that the key to avoiding hearing those words come from James is to just increase usage of the words from my mouth.

profanity in front of child

Yes, I realize that’s a stretch.

6. Giving up your favorite shows

I was about 30 minutes deep into an episode of “Peaky Blinders” when I heard the word “cu*t”. When I reflected on the content in the show up to that point, I realized that word had probably already been uttered a few times without my brain even registering it. It also occurred to me that James was present for the episode, sitting on the couch next to me playing with his toy laptop, but still able to hear everything being said.

What was I to do? Almost everything I watch is rated TV-MA. It was a tough decision, but I knew that I had to make the ultimate sacrifice and give up my shows until after Jamie was in bed.

Sometimes adulting isn’t very fun.

7. Making a list of profane words in your vocabulary

Do I count the compound swear words, too?

8. Realizing that your list is really long

Maybe I should take out the compound words.

9. Realizing that your vocabulary may not be as comprehensive as you thought

You know when you go through speech class and your instructor gets you to realize how many times you say filler words like “um” or “like”? And then forces you to be very self-conscious of those words? So, when you try to speak, your brain forgets that you’ve learned more than filler words to form a coherent sentence.

My mouth doesn’t work so good anymore with half of my filler words gone. My sentences now end in perpetual ellipses as I always feel like I’m missing a crucial part of my sentence without my beloved expletives.

10. Contacting those you have offended with your language

To the many people I’ve flipped off in the throes of my road rage – I’m sorry. Even to the ones who genuinely did drive like assholes. I recognize that behavior is not the example I want to show my son and I’m now on a better path.

11. Seeking connection with your partner as you go through this journey together

See #3 above. We are going to skip this step for now.

12. Carrying this message to others in need

I’ve done my part. If any of y’all have any recommendations for us to help us through this stressful process, leave a comment!

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