Read CHAPTER V: A Thirsty Nation’s Need of The Old Game A Retrospect after Three and a Half Years on the Water-wagon , free online book, by Samuel G. Blythe, on

So I sloughed off a good many and a good many sloughed off me; and a working basis was secured. At first I tried to keep along with all the old crowd, but that was impossible in two ways. I never realized until after I was on the water-wagon what extremes in piffle I used to think was witty conversation, and they discovered speedily that my non-alcoholic communications fitted in neither with the spirit nor the spirits of the occasion.

The crying need of the society of this country is a non-alcoholic beverage that can be drunk in quantities similar to the quantities in which highballs can be drunk. A man who is a good, handy drinker can lap up half a dozen highballs in the course of an evening and many lap up considerably more than that number and hold them comfortably; but the man does not exist who can drink half of that bulk of water or ginger ale, or of any of the first-aids-to-the-non-drinkers, and not be both flooded and foundered. The human stomach will easily accommodate numerous seidels of beer, poured in at regular or irregular intervals; but the human stomach cannot and will not take care of a similar number of seidels of water, or of any other liquid that comes in the guise of stuff that neither cheers nor inebriates. I have never looked up the scientific reason for this. I state it as a fact, proved by my own attempts to accomplish with water what I used easily to do with highballs, Pilsner and other naughty substances.

The reformer boys will tell you there is no special need for such a drink; that water is all-sufficient. Of course everybody knows the reformer boys think the world is going to hell in a hanging basket unless each person in it comports himself and herself as the reformer boy dictates! But it is not so. And it is so that the social intercourse, the interchange of ideas between man and man, both in this country and in every other country, is often predicated on drinking as a concomitant.

We may bewail this, but we cannot dodge it. Hence any man who has been used to the normal society of his fellows along the lines by which I became used to that society, and along the lines by which ninety per cent of the men in this country become used to that society, must make a bluff at drinking something now and then. If he is not a partaker of alcohol he has his troubles in finding a medium for his imbibing, unless he goes the entire limit and cuts out the society of all friends who drink, which leaves him in a rather sequestrated and senseless position not, of course, that there are not plenty of interesting men who do not drink, but that so many interesting men do.

So the problem of a non-drinker resolves itself to this: How can he continue in the companionship of the men he likes, and who possibly like him, and not drink? How can he remain a social animal, with the fellowship of his kind, and stay on the water-wagon? Well, it is a difficult problem, especially for persons situated as I was, who had spent twenty years accumulating a large assortment of acquaintances who used the stuff in moderation, but with added social zest to their goings and comings.

When a man first stops drinking he is likely to become censorious. That starts him badly. Also he is likely to become serious. That marks him down fifteen points out of a possible thirty. He flocks by himself, thinking high thoughts about his purity of purpose, his vast wisdom, his acute realization of the dangers that formerly beset his path and now beset the path of all those who are not walking side by side and in close communion with him. He pins medals all over himself, pats himself on the chest, and is much better than his kind.

Then he wakes up unless he is a chump and a Pharisee. If he is one or both of those he never wakes up, but soon passes beyond the pale. When he wakes up assuming he has intelligence enough to do that he gets an acute realization that if he holds off in that manner much longer even the elevator boys will not speak to him; and he comes to a point where he finds out that the wisest of the wise saws is that a man who is in Rome should do as the Romans do, with such modifications as his personal circumstances may demand. Personally I found the most advantageous course to pursue was to drop the highfalutin air of extreme virtue that oppressed me and depressed my friends for the first few months and consider the whole thing as a joke.