What I Quit

I had been drinking thus for practically twenty years. I did not drink

at all until after I was twenty-one and not much until after I was

twenty-five. When I got to be thirty-two or thirty-three and had gone

along a little in the world, I fell in with men of my own station; and

as I lived in a town where nearly everybody drank, including many of

the successful business and professional men--men of affairs--I soon

got i
to their habits. Naturally gregarious, I found these men good

company. They were sociable and convivial, and drank for the fun of it

and the fun that came out of it.

My business took me to various parts of the country and I made

acquaintances among men like these--the real live ones in the

communities. They were good fellows. So was I. The result was that in a

few years I had a list of friends from California to Maine--all of whom

drank; and I was never at a loss for company or highballs. Then I moved

to a city where there isn't much of anything else to do but drink at

certain times in the day, a city where men from all parts of the

country congregate and where the social side of life is highly

accentuated. I kept along with the procession. I did my work

satisfactorily to my employers and I did my drinking satisfactorily to


This continued for several years. I had a fixed habit. I drank several

drinks each day. Sometimes I drank more than several. My system was

organized to digest about so much alcohol every twenty-four hours. So

far as I could see, the drinking did me no harm. I was well. My

appetite was good. I slept soundly. My head was clear. My work

proceeded easily and was getting fair recognition. Then some of the

boys began dropping off and some began breaking down. I had occasional

mornings, after big dinners or specially convivial affairs, when I did

not feel very well--when I was out of tune and knew why. Still, I

continued as of old, and thought nothing of it except as the regular

katzenjammer--to be expected.

Presently I woke up to what was happening round me. I looked the game

over critically. I analyzed it coldly and calmly. I put every advantage

of my mode of life on one side and every disadvantage; and I put on the

other side every disadvantage of a change in procedure and every

advantage. There were times when I thought the present mode had by far

the better of it, and times when the change contemplated outweighed the

other heavily.

Here is the way it totted up against quitting: Practically every friend

you have in the United States--and you've got a lot of them--drinks

more or less. You have not cultivated any other line of associates. If

you quit drinking, you will necessarily have to quit a lot of these

friends, and quit their parties and company--for a man who doesn't

drink is always a death's-head at a feast or merrymaking where drinking

is going on. Your social intercourse with these people is predicated on

taking an occasional drink, in going to places where drinks are

served, both public and at homes. The kind of drinking you do makes

greatly for sociability, and you are a sociable person and like to be

round with congenial people. You will miss a lot of fun, a lot of good,

clever companionship, for you are too old to form a new line of

friends. Your whole game is organized along these lines. Why make a

hermit of yourself just because you think drinking may harm you? Cut it

down. Take care of yourself. Don't be such a fool as to try to change

your manner of living just when you have an opportunity to live as you

should and enjoy what is coming to you.

This is the way it lined up for quitting: So far, liquor hasn't done

anything to you except cause you to waste some time that might have

been otherwise employed; but it will get you, just as it has landed a

lot of your friends, if you stay by it. Wouldn't it be better to miss

some of this stuff you have come to think of as fun, and live longer?

There is no novelty in drinking to you. You haven't an appetite that

cannot be checked, but you will have if you stick to it much longer.

Why not quit and take a chance at a new mode of living, especially

when you know absolutely that every health reason, every

future-prospect reason, every atom of good sense in you, tells you

there is nothing to be gained by keeping at it, and that all may be


Well, I pondered over that a long time. I had watched miserable

wretches who had struggled to stay on the waterwagon--sometimes with

amusement. I knew what they had to stand if they tried to associate

with their former companions; I knew the apparent difficulties and the

disadvantages of this new mode of life. On the other hand, I was

convinced that, so far as I was concerned, without trying to lay down

a rule for any other man, I would be an ass if I didn't quit it

immediately, while I was well and all right, instead of waiting until I

had to quit on a doctor's orders, or got to that stage when I couldn't


It was no easy thing to make the decision. It is hard to change the

habits and associations of twenty years! I had a good understanding of

myself. I was no hero. I liked the fun of it, the companionship of it,

better than any one. I like my friends and, I hope and think, they like

me. It seemed to me that I needed it in my business, for I was always

dealing with men who did drink.

I wrestled with it for some weeks. I thought it all out, up one side

and down the other. Then I quit. Also I stayed quit. And believe me,

ladies and gentlemen and all others present, it was no fool of a job.

I have learned many things since I went on the waterwagon for

fair--many things about my fellowmen and many things about myself. Most

of these things radiate round the innate hypocrisy of the human being.

All those that do not concern his hypocrisy concern his lying--which, I

reckon, when you come to stack them up together, amounts to the same

thing. I have learned that I had been fooling myself and that others

had been fooling me. I gathered experience every day. And some of the

things I have learned I shall set down.

You have all known the man who says he quit drinking and never thought

of drink again. He is a liar. He doesn't exist. No man in this world

who had a daily habit of drinking ever quit and never thought of

drinking again. Many men, because they habitually lie to themselves,

think they have done this; but they haven't. The fact is, no man with a

daily habit of drinking ever quit and thought of anything else than how

good a drink would taste and feel for a time after he quit. He couldn't

and he didn't. I don't care what any of them say. I know.

Further, the man who tells you he never takes a drink until five

o'clock in the afternoon, or three o'clock in the afternoon, or only

drinks with his meals, or only takes two or three drinks a day, usually

is a liar, too--not always, but usually. There are some machine-like,

non-imaginative persons who can do this--drink by rote or by rule; but

not many. Now I do not say many men do not think they drink this way,

but most of these men are simply fooling themselves.

Again, this proposition of cutting down drinks to two or three a day

is all rot. Of what use to any person are two or three drinks a day? I

mean to any person who drinks for the fun of it, as I did and as most

of my friends do yet. What kind of a human being is he who comes into a

club and takes one cocktail and no more?--or one highball? He's worse,

from any view-point of sociability, than a man who drinks a glass of

water. At least the man who drinks the water isn't fooling himself or

trying to be part one thing and part another. The way to quit drinking

is to quit drinking. That is all there is to that. This paltering along

with two or three drinks a day is mere cowardice. It is neither one

thing nor the other. And I am here to say, also, that nine out of every

ten men who say they only take two or three drinks a day are liars,

just the same as the men who say they quit and never think of it again.

They may not think they are liars, or intend to be liars; but they are

liars just the same.

Well, as I may have intimated, I quit drinking. I drank that last,

lingering Scotch highball--and quit! I decided the no-liquor end of it

was the better end, and I took that end.