Why I Quit

First off, let me state the object of the meeting: This is to be a

record of sundry experiences centering round a stern resolve to get on

the waterwagon and a sterner attempt to stay there. It is an entirely

personal narrative of a strictly personal set of circumstances. It is

not a temperance lecture, or a temperance tract, or a chunk of advice,

or a shuddering recital of the woes of a horrible example, or a

r an admonition--or anything at all but a plain tale of an

adventure that started out rather vaguely and wound up rather


I am no brand that was snatched from the burning; no sot who picked

himself or was picked from the gutter; no drunkard who almost wrecked a

promising career; no constitutional or congenital souse. I drank liquor

the same way hundreds of thousands of men drink it--drank liquor and

attended to my business, and got along well, and kept my health, and

provided for my family, and maintained my position in the community. I

felt I had a perfect right to drink liquor just as I had a perfect

right to stop drinking it. I never considered my drinking in any way


I was decent, respectable, a gentleman, who drank only with gentlemen

and as a gentleman should drink if he pleases. I didn't care whether

any one else drank--and do not now. I didn't care whether any one else

cared whether I drank--and do not now. I am no reformer, no lecturer,

no preacher. I quit because I wanted to, not because I had to. I didn't

swear off, nor take any vow, nor sign any pledge. I am no moral censor.

It is even possible that I might go out this afternoon and take a

drink. I am quite sure I shall not--but I might. As far as my trip

into Teetotal Land is concerned, it is an individual proposition and

nothing else. I am no example for other men who drink as much as I did,

or more, or less--but I assume my experiences are somewhat typical, for

I am sure my drinking was very typical; and a recital of those

experiences and the conclusions thereon is what is before the house.

I quit drinking because I quit drinking. I had a very fair batting

average in the Booze League--as good as I thought necessary; and I knew

if I stopped when my record was good the situation would be

satisfactory to me, whether it was to any other person or not.

Moreover, I figured it out that the time to stop drinking was when it

wasn't necessary to stop--not when it was necessary. I had been

observing during the twenty years I had been drinking, more or less,

and I had known a good many men who stopped drinking when the doctors

told them to. Furthermore, it had been my observation that when a

doctor tells a man to stop drinking it usually doesn't make much

difference whether he stops or not. In a good many cases he might just

as well keep on and die happily, for he's going to die anyhow; and the

few months he will grab through his abstinence will not amount to

anything when the miseries of that abstinence are duly chalked up in

the debit column.

Therefore, applying the cold, hard logic of the situation to it, I

decided to beat the liquor to it.

That was the reason for stopping--purely selfish, personal, individual,

and not concerned with the welfare of any other person on earth--just

myself. I had taken good care of myself physically and I knew I was

sound everywhere. I wasn't sure how long I could keep sound and

continue drinking. So I decided to stop drinking and keep sound. I

noticed that a good many men of the same age as myself and the same

habits as myself were beginning to show signs of wear and tear. A

number of them blew up with various disconcerting maladies and a number

more died. Soon after I was forty years of age I noticed I began to go

to funerals oftener than I had been doing--funerals of men between

forty and forty-five I had known socially and convivially; that these

funerals occurred quite regularly, and that the doctor's certificate,

more times than not, gave Bright's Disease and other similar diseases

in the cause-of-death column. All of these funerals were of men who

were good fellows, and we mourned their loss. Also we generally took a

few drinks to their memories.

Then came a time when this funeral business landed on me like a

pile-driver. Inside of a year four or five of the men I had known best,

the men I had loved best, the men who had been my real friends and my

companions, died, one after another. Also some other friends developed

physical derangements I knew were directly traceable to too much

liquor. Both the deaths and the derangements had liquor as a

contributing if not as a direct cause. Nobody said that, of course; but

I knew it.

So I held a caucus with myself. I called myself into convention and

discussed the proposition somewhat like this:

"You are now over forty years of age. You are sound physically and you

are no weaker mentally than you have always been, so far as can be

discovered by the outside world. You have had a lot of fun, much of it

complicated with the conviviality that comes with drinking and much of

it not so complicated; but you have done your share of plain and fancy

drinking, and it hasn't landed you yet. There is absolutely no

nutriment in being dead. That gets you nothing save a few obituary

notices you will never see. There is even less in being sick and

sidling around in everybody's way. It's as sure as sunset, if you keep

on at your present gait, that Mr. John Barleycorn will land you just

as he has landed a lot of other people you know and knew. There are two

methods of procedure open to you. One is to keep it up and continue

having the fun you think you are having and take what is inevitably

coming to you. The other is to quit it while the quitting is good and

live a few more years--that may not be so rosy, but probably will have


I viewed it from every angle I could think of. I knew what sort of a

job I had laid out to tackle if I quit. I weighed the whole thing in my

mind in the light of my acquaintances, my experiences, my position, my

mode of life, my business. I had been through it many times. I had

often gone on the waterwagon for periods varying in length from three

days to three months. I wasn't venturing into any uncharted territory.

I knew every signpost, every crossroad, every foot of the ground. I

knew the difficulties--knew them by heart. I wasn't deluding myself

with any assertions of superior will-power or superior courage--or

superior anything. I knew I had a fixed daily habit of drinking, and

that if I quit drinking I should have to reorganize the entire works.