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´╗┐Title: Cutting It Out - How to get on the waterwagon and stay there
Author: Blythe, Samuel G. (Samuel George), 1868-1947
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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_In Press_

_By the Same Author_





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CHAPTER                PAGE

  I. Why I Quit          9

 II. How I Quit         21

III. What I Quit        31

 IV. When I Quit        45

  V. After I Quit       57


This work originally appeared in _The Saturday Evening Post_ under the
title "On the Water-Wagon."




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
warning, or 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.



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 obtained, 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.



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 into 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.



For purposes of comprehensive record I have divided the various stages
of my waterwagoning into these parts: the obsession stage; the caramel
stage; the pharisaical stage, and the safe-and-sane stage. I drank my
Scotch highball and went over to the club. The crowd was there; I sat
down at a table and when somebody asked me what I'd have I took a glass
of water. Several of my friends looked inquiringly at me and one asked:
"On the wagon?" This attracted the attention of the entire group to my
glass of water. I came in for a good deal of banter, mostly along the
line that it was time I went on the wagon. This was varied with
predictions that I would stay on from an hour to a day or so. I didn't
like that talk, but I bluffed it out--weakly, to be sure. I said I had
decided it wouldn't do me any harm to cool out a bit.

Next day, along about first-drink time, I felt a craving for a
highball. I didn't take it. That evening I went over to the club again.
The crowd was there. I was asked to have a drink. This time I rather
defiantly ordered a glass of water. The same jests were made, but I
drank my water. On the third day I was a bit shaky--sort of nervous. I
didn't feel like work. I couldn't concentrate my mind on anything. I
kept thinking of various kinds of drinks and how good they would taste.
I tried out the club. I may have imagined it, but I thought my old
friends lacked interest in my advent at the table. One of them said:
"Oh, for Heaven's sake, take a drink! You've got a terrible grouch on."
I backed out.

I did have a grouch. I was sore at everybody in the world. Also, I kept
thinking how much I would like to have a drink. That was natural. I had
accustomed my system to digest a certain amount of alcohol every day.
I wasn't supplying that alcohol. My system needed it and howled for it.
I knew a man who had been a drunkard but who had quit and who hadn't
taken a drink for twelve years. I discussed the problem with him. He
told me an eminent specialist had told him it takes eighteen months for
a man who has been a heavy drinker or a steady drinker to get all the
alcohol out of his system. I hadn't been a heavy drinker, but I had
been a steady drinker; and that information gave me a cold chill. I
thought if I were to have this craving for a drink every day for
eighteen months, surely I had let myself in for a lovely task!

I stuck for a week--for two weeks--for three weeks. At the end of that
time my friends had grown accustomed to this idiosyncrasy and were
making bets on how long I would last. I didn't go round where they were
much. I was as lonesome as a stray dog in a strange alley. I had
carefully cultivated a large line of drinking acquaintances and I
hardly knew a congenial person who didn't drink. That was the hardest
part of the game. I wasn't fit company for man or beast. I don't blame
my friends--not a bit. I was cross and ugly and hypercritical and
generally nasty, and they passed me up. However, the craving for
liquor decreased to some degree. There were some periods in the day
when I didn't think how good a drink would taste, and did devote myself
to my work.

I discovered a few things. One was that, no matter how much fun I
missed in the evening, I didn't get up with a taste in my mouth. I had
no katzenjammers. After a week or so I went to sleep easily and slept
like a child. Then the caramel stage arrived. I acquired a sudden
craving for candy. I had not eaten any candy for years, for men who
drink regularly rarely take sweets. One day I looked in a
confectioner's window and was irresistibly attracted by a box of
caramels. I went in and bought it, and ate half a dozen. They seemed to
fill a long-felt want. The sugar in them supplied the stimulant that
was lacking, I suppose. Anyhow, they tasted right good and were
satisfactory; and I kept a box of caramels on my desk for several weeks
and ate a few each day. Also I began to yell for ice cream and pie and
other sweets with my meals.

Along about this time I developed the pharisaical stage. I looked with
a great pity on my friends who persisted in drinking. I assumed some
little airs of superiority and congratulated myself on my great
will-power that had enabled me to quit drinking. They were steadily
drinking themselves to death. I could see that plainly. There was
nothing else to it. I was a fine sample of a full-blown prig. I went so
far as to explain the case to one or two, and I got hooted at for my
pains; so I lapsed into my condition of immense superiority and said:
"Oh, well, if they won't take advice from me, who knows, let them go
along. Poor chaps, I am afraid they are lost!"

It's a wonder somebody didn't take an ax to me. I deserved it. After
lamenting--to myself--the sad fates of my former companions and pluming
myself on my noble course, I woke up one day and kicked myself round
the park. "Here!" I said. "You chump, what business have you got
putting on airs about your non-drinking and parading yourself round
here as a giant example of self-restraint? Where do you get off as a
preacher--or a censor, or a reformer--in this matter? Who appointed you
as the apostle of non-drinking? Take a tumble to yourself and close

That was the beginning of the safe-and-sane stage, which still
persists. It came about the end of the second month. I had lost all
desire for liquor; and, though there were times when I missed the
sociability of drinking fearfully, I was as steady as a rock in my
policy of abstaining from drinks of all kinds. Now it doesn't bother me
at all. I am riding jauntily on the wagon, without a chance of falling

At the time I decided it was up to me to stop this pharisaical
foolishness, I took a new view of things; decided I wasn't so much,
after all; ceased reprobating my friends who wanted to drink; had no
advice to offer, and stopped pointing to myself as a heroic young
person who had accomplished a gigantic task.

Friends had tolerated me. I wondered that they had, for I was a sad
affair. Surely it was up to me to be as tolerant as they had been,
notwithstanding my new mode of life. So I stopped foreboding and tried
to accustom my friends to my company on a strictly water basis. The
attempt was not entirely successful. I dropped out of a good many
gatherings where formerly I should have been one of the bright and
shining lights. There are no two ways about it--a man cannot drink
water in a company where others are drinking highballs and get into the
game with any effectiveness. Any person who quits drinking may as well
accept that as a fact; and most persons will stop trying after a time
and seek new diversions; or begin drinking again.



I had a good lively tilt with John Barleycorn, ranging over twenty
years. I know all about drinking. I figured it this way: I have about
fifteen more good, productive years in me. After that I shall lose in
efficiency, even if I keep my health. Being selfish and perhaps getting
sensible, I desire the remaining productive years of my life to be
years of the greatest efficiency. Looking back over my drinking years,
I saw, if I was to attain and keep that greatest efficiency, that was
my job, and that it could not be complicated with any booze-fighting

I decided that what I might lose in the companionship and social end of
it I would gain in my own personal increase in horsepower; for I knew
that though drinking may have done me no harm, it certainly did me no
good, and that, if persisted in, it surely would do me harm in some way
or other.

Sizing it up, one side against the other, I conclude that it is better
for me not to drink. I find I have much more time that I can devote to
my business; that I think more clearly, feel better, do not make any
loose statements under the exhilaration of alcohol, and keep my mind
on my number constantly. The item of time is the surprising item. It is
astonishing how much time you have to do things in that formerly you
used to drink in, with the accompaniment of all the piffle that goes
with drinking! When you are drinking you are never too busy to take a
drink and never too busy not to stop. You are busy all the time--but
get nowhere. Work is the curse of the drinking classes.

Any man who has been accustomed to do the kind of drinking I did for
twenty years, who likes the sociability and the companionship of it,
will find that the sudden transition to a non-drinking life will leave
him with a pretty dull existence on his hands until he gets
reorganized. This is the depressing part of it. You have nowhere to go
and nothing to do. Still, though you may miss the fun of the evening,
you have all your drinking friends lashed to the mast in the morning.

_By the Same Author_


Another delightful book by Mr. Blythe, in which he discusses surplus
avoirdupois. It tells fat people how to get thin, and thin people will
get fat laughing over its delicious humor.

Some extracts from the book

     "A fat man is a joke; and a fat woman is two jokes--one on
     herself and the other on her husband."

     "Half the comedy in the world is predicated on the paunch."

     "Fat, the doctors say, is fatal. I move to amend by striking
     out the last two letters of the indictment. Fat is fat."

Attractively bound. Price, 35c

_For sale wherever books are sold or supplied by the publishers_


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