Story type: Essay
You lucky, well-balanced ones talk much, and sincerely, of the horrors of drink, and of the drunkard’s weakness.
You think the whiskey drinker ought to stop.
Do you ask yourself whether or not he CAN stop?
Let us consider to-day the drunkard’s side of the case. —-
Very often physical weakness causes drunkenness. Many a man takes a drink because the task put upon him is heavier than he can bear. The whiskey does not help him–it hurts him. But it cheats him and makes him THINK that he is helped.
You realize that whiskey drinking as a settled habit must be fought with weapons of some kind.
WILL POWER is the great weapon to use in our own behalf. You tell the drunkard to use his will power.
But you forget that the first thing that whiskey attacks is will power.
You remind the drunkard that his weakness brings suffering on others, and you appeal to his conscience. But you forget that whiskey weakens conscience even more than it weakens the nerves. You forget, too, that whiskey makes its victims suffer. If he could free himself he would do so, if only for his own sake.
And you must not forget that whiskey argues ingeniously, in addition to its telling of lies.
A man is overcome with some great grief. Whiskey makes him forget, or at least it makes him not care.
A man is suffering some great humiliation, some sense of personal shortcoming, that is intolerable to him. Whiskey offers to relieve him, and for the moment it does relieve him. —-
YOU who talk nobly of temperance and advocate laws governing other men are apt to be proud of your own self-control.
Perhaps you have been a drinking man and have stopped. But you do not know how much lighter whiskey’s hold may have been upon you than upon others.
Suppose you worked hard every day, every week and every year.
Suppose you had no pleasure in life, save the fictitious pleasure and excitement that come from whiskey. Suppose you failed, and failed and failed again–and suppose that whiskey was always ready to praise you, make you feel proud of yourself, make you hold others responsible for your failures–are you sure you could let it alone? —-
In your condemnation of those who persist in whiskey drinking you must remember that what is easy for one man is very hard for another.
Suppose you should urge two animals to go without meat–one of the animals being a tiger and the other a sheep. Would you praise the sheep for its faithful keeping of the promise? Would you blame the tiger for breaking its word, if the temptation to eat meat were offered?
In men’s nervous systems, in their craving for alcohol, there is as great a difference between different temperaments as between the appetites of the sheep and the tiger. One man is dragged toward the gulf by whiskey with a force of which you have no conception.
You look with contempt at a hopeless drunkard, shuffling along toward destruction.
THERE ARE THOUSANDS OF SUCH MEN WHO EVERY DAY OF THEIR LIVES MAKE AN EFFORT OF THE WILL OF WHICH YOU WOULD BE INCAPABLE.
But that effort, great as it is, is not great enough to save them–whiskey drags them too hard in the other direction.
Fortunately, we can all congratulate ourselves on the steady falling off in drunkenness. To drink to excess is no longer respectable. Once it was a leading sign of respectability. Doctors in the old days wrote their prescriptions illegibly, because when called late at night they were usually drunk. To-day a drunken doctor cannot possibly survive.
Work as hard as you can against drunkenness, for drunkenness harms every one, even the saloon-keeper himself. The drunkard soon comes to ruin and ceases to be a profitable customer.
Argue with young men, and talk to children ABOUT THEIR OWN WELFARE in the matter.
But remember also that the drunkard often has tried harder than you could try to overcome the enemy that has conquered him. Remember that unless you have lived his life you cannot know his excuse and cannot judge him.