Read CHAPTER VIII: Leisure Put to Good Uses of The Old Game A Retrospect after Three and a Half Years on the Water-wagon , free online book, by Samuel G. Blythe, on

Take books though books may not be a fair test of time employed in my case, for I always have read books in great numbers but take books: In the past three years and a half I have read as many books real books as I read in the ten years preceding. I have read books I was always intending to read, but never got round to. I have kept up with the new good ones and have helped myself to several items of interesting discovery and knowledge that in the old days would have been known about only through newspaper reports. I have developed a good many half-facts that were in my mind. I have classified and arranged a lot of scattering information that had seeped into me notwithstanding my engagements with the boys.

I have had time to go to see some pictures. I have had time to hear some music. I have had time to visit a lot of interesting places, such as great industrial concerns and factories, which I always intended to see but never quite reached. I have had time to make a few investigations on my own account. I have met and talked to a large number of people who were formerly outside my range of vision. And I have done better work in my own line I have more time for it.

If I have lost any friends they were friends whose loss does not bother me. I find that all the true-blue chaps, the worth-while ones, though they look in most instances on my non-drinking idiosyncrasy with amused tolerance, have not lost any respect or affection for me, and are just as true blue as they formerly were. Most of them drink, but I fancy some of them wish they did not; and none of them holds my strange behavior up against me.

To be sure, they often have their little gatherings without me; but that is not because they do not like me any the less, and is because I do not happen, in my new rôle, to fit in. There are times, you know, when even the most enthusiastic ginger-ale specialist is not persona grata. We have reached a common basis of understanding. The real man is tolerant. Intolerance is the vice of the narrow man.

Now, then, we come to the real question, which is: With our society organized as it is, with men such men as they are, with conditions that surround life as it is organized, with things as they stand to-day is it worth while to drink moderately, or is it not? The answer, based solely on my own experience, is that it is not. Looking at the matter from all its angles I am convinced that the best thing I ever did for myself was to quit drinking. I will go further than that and say it is my unalterable conviction that alcohol, in any form, as a beverage never did anything for any man that he would not have been better without.

I can now sit back and contrast the old game with the new. The comparisons fall under two general heads physical and mental. The physical gain is so obvious that even those who have not experienced it admit it, and those who have experienced it comment on it as some miracle of health that has been attained. Any man I do not care who he is who was the sort of a drinker I was, who will stop drinking long enough to get cooled out will feel so much better in every way that he will be hard put to it to give a reason for ever beginning again.

Take my own case: I was fat, wheezy, uric-acidy, gouty, rheumatic not organically bad, but symptomatically inferior. I was never quite normal no man is normal who has a few drinks each day, though most men boast they never were under the influence of liquor in their lives, and all that sort of tommyrot and never quite up to the mark.

Now I weigh one hundred eighty-five pounds, which is my normal weight, for that is what I weighed when I was twenty-one; and I have not varied five pounds in more than two years. I used to weigh two hundred and fifty, which was the result of our friend Pilsner beer and his accomplices. All the gouty, rheumatic, wheezy symptoms are gone. If there is anything the matter with me the best doctors in these United States cannot discover what it is. My eye is clear, instead of somewhat bleary. I have dropped off every physical burden and infirmity I had, and I am in the pink of condition. I have no fear of heart, kidneys, or of any other organ. I have no pains, no aches, and no head in the morning. I sleep as a well man should sleep and I eat as a well man should eat. I am forty-five years old and I feel as if I were twenty and I am, to all intents and purposes, physically.

So much for that side of it. Mentally I have a clearer, saner, wider view of life. I am afflicted by none of the desultoriness superinduced by alcohol. I do not need a bracer to get me going or a hooker to keep me under way. I find, now that I know the other side of it, that the chief mental effect of alcohol, taken as I took it, is to induce a certain scattering and casualness of mind. Also, it induces a lack of definiteness of view and a notable failure of intensive effort. A man evades and scatters and exaggerates and makes loose statements when he drinks.