Kicking the Habit
Freedom from the Bondage of Victorian Vices
If anyone doubts that during the Victorian Era, the same social diseases; like alcoholism and drug addiction, wreaked havoc with families; just as they do today; they need only comb through period catalogues and magazines to find numerous ads for miracle cures assuring instant rehabilitation.   It all sounded so simple.

In fact, many of these addictions may have originated with alcohol based
patent medicines or doctor's prescriptions, but they were definitely a blight on all Canadians, regardless of social status. 
Public Enemy Number One:  Alcohol

Drunkeness and alcohol abuse was probably the most common vice and was; and still is; devastating; to the families of the afflicted. Temperance Groups at the time played a very important role, not only in promoting prevention but also in helping families through alcohol related difficulties. 

Part of the problem may have been the fact that most of the spirits consumed were homemade and often toxic, as some found out the hard way.  From the Carleton Sentinel Newspaper April 30, 1898:
Dibblee G. and Charles S. of Bath on their return from the lumber woods stopped at a drug store in Houlton and purchased a bottle of methylated spirits.  The druggist  warned the parties against using it internally and labelled the bottle “poison”.   After reaching home they drank some of it when the effect was quick and painful.  G. suffered severely for a short time and then expired. S. at last accounts was in great suffering, but hopes were entertained of his recovery".  I've blocked out the last names so as not to offend any descendants, but stories like this were not unique and sadly companies made a fortune selling "cures" for those suffering from this very real disease.

The ad above is for the German Liquor Cure and could be purchased straight from the Sears Roebuck catalogue, priced between .42 and .75 cents.  It is interesting to note that their claim was "Every Man Can be Permanently Cured of the Habit or Desire for Intoxicating Drink of any Kind".  Probably targetting the female consumer
wishing to redeem her husband, though I'm sure that many women also suffered from alcoholism even then.

They also go on to say:


"Our remedy is perfectly harmless, none of the bad effects produced by many so-called liquor cures so widely advertised. That drunkenness is a disease that can be cured by mediclne, just the same as other diseases can, is a fact becoming well known.  Thousands of cases have been cured by this medicine; in fact, it's wonderful curative properties are now well known throughout the entire world!"
"We bring this cure within the reach of everyone. It is now not necessary to go to an institute for treatment; home treatment is just as successful.  The impression has been cultivated by interested partles that cures could not be effected except by hypodermic injections, but nothing is more absurd. Any medicine taken into the stomach will be as effective as if used hypodermically. No medicine has had such a wonderful success in this age of progress as Our Liquor Habit Cure. It creates an appetite for food instead of liquor, it stimulates the whole system to healthy action, it quiets nervous excitement, vertigo, muscular trembling and all the dangerous effects of excessive use of liquor. It improves the appetite and digestion and regulates the bowels.  It is, in fact, a perfect cure for the drink hablt."

"We urge everyone who have accustomed themselves to the excessive use of liquor, and who wish to stop the practice, to send for even a small box as a trial. We know our remedy will cure you. 
We are sure that after using a few doses you will feel the craving for liquor disappearing and a warm healthy glow spreading from the stomach over the whole system; you will have a desire for food instead of whisky. This will be the commencement of the cure, and if you will follow it up faithfully for a few months it will effect a permanent cure. When you have used a small box, we know you will send for more to thoroughly complete the cure". The bait was set and no doubt thousands grabbed for it.
But what if the person who needed the cure was in denial?  No problem.  The White Ribbon Secret Liquor Cure could "Make Them Stop Drinking Forever"  At $ 1.10, drunkards...could be "Cured Without Their Knowledge" This miracle drug claimed that it could "Save thousands from that awful monster drink; snatch thousands from the life of disease, poverty and degredation; release man from the bondage of whiskey, reform the most abandoned drunkard as well as preventing the whiskey habit from taking a hold on only moderate drinkers."  

This odorless, colourless powder could be dropped into their tea, coffee or soup and their craving for liquor would be destroyed "in due time and forerver."
From Light on Dark Corners 1894
MALT AND ALCOHOLIC DRUNKENESS - Alcoholic stimulants have a record of woe second to nothing. Its victims are annually marching to drunkards' graves by the thousands. Drunkards may be divided into three classes:  First, the accidental or social drunkard; second, the periodical or spasmodic drunkard; and third, the sot.

THE ACCIDENTAL OR SOCIAL DRUNKARD - is yet on safe ground. He has not acquired the dangerous craving for liquor. It is only on special occasions that he yields to excessive indulgence; sometimes in meeting a friend, or at some political blow-out. On extreme occasions he will indulge until he becomes a helpless victim, and usually as he grows older occasions will increase, and step by step he will be lead nearer to the precipice of ruin.

THE PERIODICAL OR SPASMODIC DRUNKARD - with whom it is always the unexpected which occurs, and who at intervals exacts from his accumulated capital the usury of as prolonged a spree as his nerves and stomach will stand. Science is inclined to charitably label this specimen of man a sort of a physiologic puzzle, to be as much pitied as blamed.  Given the benefit of every doubt, when he starts off on one of his hilarious tangents, he becomes a howling nuisance; if he has a family, keeps them continually on the ragged edge of apprehension, and is unanimously pronounced a "holy terror" by his friends. His life and future is an uncertainty.  He is unreliable and cannot be long trusted. Total reformation is the only hope, but it rarely is accomplished.

THE SOT - A blunt term that needs no defining. for even the children comprehend the hopeless degradation it implies. Laws to restrain and punish him are framed; societies to protect and reform him are organized, and mostly in vain. He is prone in life's very gutter; bloated, reeking and polluted with the doggery's slops and filth. He can fall but a few feet lower, and not until he stumbles into an unmarked, unhonored grave, where kind mother earth and the merciful mantle of oblivion will cover and conceal the awful wreck he made of God's own image. To the casual observer, the large majority of the community, these three phases, at whose vagaries many laugh, and over whose consequences millions mourn, comprehend intoxication and its results, from the filling of the cup to its shattering fall from the nerveless hand, and this is the end of the matter. Would to God that it were! for at that it would be bad enough. But it is not, for wife, children and friends must suffer and drink the cup of trouble and sorrow to its dregs.
I read a charming novel written by Florence Moore in 1899; entitled Ben Howard's Test. In it, a young school teacher by the name of Lizzie Jackson; falls in love with a factory worker, by the name of Ben Howard; and the couple become engaged. However, one afternoon when he paid her a visit at her grandmother's house, where Lizzie was staying; he "came staggering into the little room, nearly upsetting Grannie in her arm-chair, as he rolled out some incoherent sentences of apology for his tardy appearance"

"'He's had a sup too much', said the old woman...'You'll have to let him know Lizzie, he mustn't go spending his wages like that'"

Devastated, the young girl breaks off the engagement, but when Ben promises to give up the habit, she challenges him to a test.  They would separate for one year and if he came back to her a pillar of sobriety, the wedding would take place; otherwise, she never wanted to see him again.

Naturally, Ben finds religion, cleans up his act and the two live happily ever after.  However, sadly these romantic notions were seldom the case, and alcohol abuse was much more difficult to overcome.
The Temperance Pledge
Dr. Chase
London, Ontario 1868
" A pledge I make, no wine to take,
Nor brandy red, that turns the head;
Not Whisky hot, that makes the sot;
Nor fiery rum, that ruins home ;
Nor will I sin, by drinking gin;
Hard cider too, will never do;.
No lager beer, my heart to cheer;
Nor sparkling ale, my face to pale.
To quench my thirst I' II always bring,
Cold water from the well or spring;
So here I Pledge perpetual hate;
To all that can intoxicate."
In Cases of Apparent Death From Drinking Rum
The Family Advisor - 1833
"The head to be elevated, the neck cloth loosened, and cold applied to the head by ice, or cold water. Cupping and leeching are necessary, and the feet and legs are to be kept hot with bricks or water.  Some warm water, acidulated with any acid, may be forced into the stomach, by a prepared syringe, and, if possible, the rum extracted by a stomach pump."  Of course, you may have only felt that you had died, but after receiving this treatment, wished that you had.
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