How I Quit

This took some time. I didn't dash into it. I had done that before, and

had dashed out again just as impetuously. I revolved the matter in my

mind for some weeks. Then I decided to quit. Then I did quit. Thereby

hangs this tale.

I went to a dinner one night that was a good dinner. It was a dinner

that had every appurtenance that a good dinner should have, including

the best things to drink that could be o
tained, and lashings of them.

I proceeded at that dinner just as I had proceeded at scores of similar

dinners in my time--hundreds of them, I guess--and took a drink every

time anybody else did. I was a seasoned drinker. I knew how to do it. I

went home that night pleasantly jingled, but no more. I slept well, ate

a good breakfast and went down to business. On the way down I decided

that this was the day to make the plunge. Having arrived at that

decision, I went out about three o'clock that afternoon, drank a Scotch

highball--a big, man's-sized one--as a doch-an-doris, and quit. That

was almost a year ago. I haven't taken a drink since. It is not my

present intention ever to take another drink; but I am not tying myself

down by any vows. It is not my present intention, I say; and I let it

go at that.

No man can be blamed for trying to fool other people about

himself--that is the way most of us get past; but what can be said for

a man who tries to fool himself? Every man knows exactly how bogus he

is and should admit it--to himself only. The man who, knowing his

bogusness, refuses to admit it to himself--no matter what his attitude

may be to the outside world--simply stores up trouble for himself, and

discomfort and much else. There are many phases of personal

understanding of oneself that need not be put in the newspapers or

proclaimed publicly. Still, for a man to gold-brick himself is a

profitless undertaking, but prevalent notwithstanding.

When it comes to fooling oneself by oneself, the grandest performers

are the boys who have a habit--no matter what kind of a habit--a habit!

It may be smoking cigarettes, or walking pigeontoed, or talking through

the nose, or drinking--or anything else. Any man can see with half an

eye how drinking, for example, is hurting Jones; but he always argues

that his own personal drinking is of a different variety and is doing

him no harm. The best illustration of it is in the old vaudeville

story, where the man came on the stage and said: "Smith is drinking too

much! I never go into a saloon without finding him there!"

That is the reason drinking liquor gets so many people--either by

wrecking their health or by fastening on them the habit they cannot

stop. They fool themselves. They are perfectly well aware that their

neighbors are drinking too much--but not themselves. Far be it from

them not to have the will-power to stop when it is time to stop. They

are smarter than their neighbors. They know what they are doing. And

suddenly the explosions come!

There are hundreds of thousands of men in all walks of life in this

country who for twenty or thirty years have never lived a minute when

there was not more or less alcohol in their systems, who cannot be said

to have been strictly and entirely sober in all that time, but who do

their work, perform all their social duties, make their careers and are

fairly successful just the same.

There has been more flub-dub printed and spoken about drinking liquor

than about any other employment, avocation, vocation, habit, practice

or pleasure of mankind. Drinking liquor is a personal proposition, and

nothing else. It is individual in every human relation. Still, you

cannot make the reformers see that. They want other people to stop

drinking because they want other people to stop. So they make laws that

are violated, and get pledges that are broken and try to legislate or

preach or coax or scare away a habit that must, in any successful

outcome, be stopped by the individual, and not because of any law or

threat or terror or cajolery.

This is the human-nature side of it, but the professional reformers

know less about human nature, and care less, than about any other phase

of life. Still, the fact remains that with any habit, and especially

with the liquor habit--probably because that is the most prevalent

habit there is--nine-tenths of the subjects delude themselves about how

much of a habit they have; and, second, that nine-tenths of those with

the habit have a very clear idea of the extent to which the habit is

fastened on others. They are fooled about themselves, but never about

their neighbors! Wherefore the breweries and the distilleries prosper


However, I am straying away from my story, which has to do with such

drinking as the ordinary man does--not sprees, nor debauches, or

orgies, or periodicals, or drunkenness, but just the ordinary amount

of drinking that happens along in a man's life, with a little too much

on rare occasions and plenty at all times. A German I knew once told me

the difference between Old-World drinking and American drinking was

that the German, for example, drinks for the pleasure of the drink,

while the American drinks for the alcohol in it. That may be so; but

very few men who have any sense or any age set out deliberately to get

drunk. Such drunkenness as there is among men of that sort usually

comes more by accident than by design.

My definition of a drunkard has always been this: A man is a drunkard

when he drinks whisky or any other liquor before breakfast. I think

that is pretty nearly right. Personally I never took a drink of liquor

before breakfast in my life and not many before noon. Usually my

drinking began in the afternoon after business, and was likely to end

before dinnertime--not always, but usually.