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Temperance Movement
by [?]

IV. I counsel the patient not to make the mistake of supposing that his amendment will necessarily proceed continuously, or by equal increments; because this, which is a common notion, will certainly lead to dangerous disappointments. How frequently I have heard people encouraging a self-reformer by such language as this:–‘When you have got over the fourth day of abstinence, which suppose to be Sunday, then Monday will find you a trifle better; Tuesday better still,–though still it should be only by a trifle; and so on. You may, at least, rely on never going back; you may assure yourself of having seen the worst; and the positive improvements, if trifles separately, must soon gather into a sensible magnitude.’ This may be true in a case of short standing: but, as a general rule, it is perilously delusive. On the contrary, the line of progress, if exhibited in a geometrical construction, would describe an ascending path upon the whole, but with frequent retrocessions into descending curves, which, compared with the point of ascent that had been previously gained and so vexatiously interrupted, would sometimes seem deeper than the original point of starting. This mortifying tendency I can report from experience many times repeated with regard to opium; and so unaccountably, as regarded all the previous grounds of expectation, that I am compelled to suppose it a tendency inherent in the very nature of all self-restorations for animal systems. They move perhaps necessarily per saltum, by, intermitting spasms, and pulsations of unequal energy.

V. I counsel the patient frequently to call back before his thoughts– when suffering sorrowful collapses, that seem unmerited by anything done or neglected–that such, and far worse, perhaps, must have been his experience, and with no reversion of hope behind, had he persisted in his intemperate indulgencies; these also suffer their own collapses, and (so far as things not co-present can be compared) by many degrees more shocking to the genial instincts.

VI. I exhort him to believe, that no movement on his own part, not the smallest conceivable, towards the restoration of his healthy state, can by possibility perish. Nothing in this direction is finally lost; but often it disappears and hides itself; suddenly, however, to reappear, and in unexpected strength, and much more hopefully; because such minute elements of improvement, by reappearing at a remoter stage, show themselves to have combined with other elements of the same kind: so that equally by their gathering tendency and their duration through intervals of apparent darkness, and below the current of what seemed absolute interruption, they argue themselves to be settled in the system. There is no good gift that does not come from God: almost his greatest is health, with the peace which it inherits; and man must reap this on the same terms as he was told to reap God’s earliest gift, the fruits of the earth, viz.: ‘in the sweat of his brow,’ through labor, often through sorrow, through disappointment, but still through imperishable perseverance, and hoping under clouds, when all hope seems darkened.

VII. It is difficult, in selecting from many memoranda of warning and encouragement, to know which to prefer when the space disposable is limited. But it seems to me important not to omit this particular caution: The patient will be naturally anxious, as he goes on, frequently to test the amount of his advance, and its rate, if that were possible. But this he will see no mode of doing, except through tentative balancings of his feelings, and generally of the moral atmosphere around him, as to pleasure and hope, against the corresponding states, so far as he can recall them from his periods of intemperance. But these comparisons, I warn him, are fallacious, when made in this way; the two states are incommensurable on any plan of direct comparison. Some common measure must be found, and, out of himself; some positive fact, that will not bend to his own delusive feeling at the moment; as, for instance, in what degree he finds tolerable what heretofore was not so–the effort of writing letters, or transacting business, or undertaking a journey, or overtaking the arrears of labor, that had been once thrown off to a distance. If in these things he finds himself improved, by tests that cannot be disputed, he may safely disregard any sceptical whispers from a wayward sensibility which cannot yet, perhaps, have recovered its normal health, however much improved. His inner feelings may not yet point steadily to the truth, though they may vibrate in that direction. Besides, it is certain that sometimes very manifest advances, such as any medical man would perceive at a glance, carry a man through stages of agitation and discomfort. A far worse condition might happen to be less agitated, and so far more bearable. Now, when a man is positively suffering discomfort, when he is below the line of pleasurable feeling, he is no proper judge of his own condition, which he neither will nor can appreciate. Tooth-ache extorts more groans than dropsy.