Read CHAPTER IV: Those Who Have Suffered in Vain of The Old Game A Retrospect after Three and a Half Years on the Water-wagon , free online book, by Samuel G. Blythe, on

Owing to a worldwide acquaintance among men who drink my personal determination to quit still excites the patronizing inquiry, “Still on the wagon?” when I meet old friends. That used to make me angry, but it does not any more. I say, “Yes!” take my mineral water and pass on to other things. But the position of those who quit and go back to it, and seek to excuse the return by saying, “Oh, I only stopped to see whether I could. I found it was easy; so I began again!” now is that not the sublimation of piffle? The fact that any man who salves himself with this sort of statement and hundreds do did go back does not prove that he could quit, but that he could not!

I can understand why a man, having tried both sides of the game, should conclude that the rigors and restraints of not drinking overbalance the compensations and take up the practice again; but I cannot understand why a man should be so great a hypocrite with himself as to assign a reason like that for his renewal of the habit. No man quits just to see whether he can quit. Every man quits because he personally thinks he ought to quit for whatever his personal reason may be. And he begins again because he concludes the game is not worth playing, which means that he is not able to play it not that it lacks merit.

When you come to sum it all up general reasons for drinking are as absurd as general reasons for not drinking. It is entirely an individual proposition. I concluded it was a bad thing for me to drink. I know now I was right. But and here is the point it may be a good thing for my neighbor to drink. He must judge of that himself. Personally I cannot see that it is a good thing for any man to drink; but I am no judge. I am influenced in my conclusions, not by a broad view of the situation as it applies to my fellows but by an intensely narrow view as it applies to myself. Hence what I have concluded in the matter may be uncharitable may smack of Puritanism and may not be supported by general facts; but I am writing about my own experiences, not those of any other person whatever.

My occupation takes me to all parts of the world and has for twenty-five years. It has caused me to make friends with all sorts of people in all sorts of places and in all sorts of circumstances. I early discovered that, as I was a gregarious person and intent on doing the best for myself that I possibly could, it was necessary for me to cultivate the friendship of men of affairs; and it became apparent to me that many men of affairs take an occasional drink. Naturally I took an occasional drink with them, having no prejudices in the matter and being of open mind. I am big and husky, and mix well; and the result was I acquired as extensive a line of convivial acquaintances, across this country and across Europe, as any person of your acquaintance. To some extent my friendship with these men was predicated on having a few drinks with them. I fell in with their ways or they fell in with mine; and as my association in almost every city, among the men with whom I worked and the men I met, is based largely on entertainment of one kind or another generally with some alcohol in it my life was ordered that way for two decades. And I had a heap of fun. There was no sottishness about it, no solitary drinking, no drinking for drink’s sake, no drunkenness. It was all jollity and really innocent enough a case of good fellows having a good time together.

However, there was a good deal of rum consumed one way and another. Then three and a half years ago, after a long caucus with myself, I quit. I decided I had played that game long enough and would begin to play another. It may be I did not know or figure out as concretely as I have figured out since just what I was doing when I quit. It may be! Still, that has nothing to do with the case. I quit and I have stayed quit and I have quit forever. So all that is coming to me in the premises is based on my own determination, as all has been that has come, and I have no complaints to make; and if I made any I should expect to get a punch in the eye for making them and deserve one.

Passing over the physical and mental sides of the fight which, I may assure you, were annoying enough to suit the most exacting advocate of the old policy of mortifying the flesh and disciplining the mind there came eventually the necessity of learning how to keep in the game on a water basis or, rather, of learning how to keep in such portions of the game as seemed worth while on a soft-drink schedule. I was too old to form many new ties. I had accumulated a farflung line of drinking men as friends. They were mostly the men with whom association was a pleasure as in politics the villains are always the good fellows and I did not want to lose them, however willing they were to lose me.

There came, however, with my mineral-water view, a discriminatory sense that was not enjoyed in the highball period that is to say, I found, observed with the cold and mayhap critical eye of abstinence, that a number of those with whom I was wont to associate needed the softening glow radiated by the liquor in me to make them as good as I had previously thought they were. There were some I found I did not miss, and more came to the same conclusion about me. They were all right fine! when seen or heard through ears and eyes that had been affected by the genial charitableness of a couple or three cocktails; but when seen or heard with no adventitious appliances on my part save ginger ale they were rather depressing and I am quite sure they held the same views about me.