Marriage And The Drink Question
( Originally Published 1918 )
THE personal habits of the man whom she is to marry are a matter of vital importance to every young woman. Some people think it an evidence of unnecessary meddlesomeness on the part of the girl to presume to pass judgment upon the young man's use of alcohol or tobacco. If it was only her own personal convenience which she had to consider, it might be looked upon as an act of gracious self-abnegation for her to put aside any personal prejudices which she might have against the man's method of soothing or stimulating his nerves. It is not a matter merely of personal preference, however. For the sake of her possible children she must consider this question with the utmost carefulness, and she will find, when once she has made a thorough study of it, that the man's welfare is equally involved.
The question of the use of alcohol may first come to her as a personal one. When she begins going out into society, she may find that, upon occasion, she is urged to take a social glass of wine; and the fear of being considered a crank or a kill-joy may overcome her own scruples, largely because she has no satisfactory reason to give for a continued refusal.
The reason that stimulants are so popular on social occasions furnishes the very best argument against her indulgence in them. The very first effect of alcohol upon the system is the suppression of the natural inhibitions. In simple phraseology, the restraints which we ordinarily place upon ourselves, because our judgment has been trained to recognize the benefit of such self-restraint, disappear as a result of the clouding of the reasoning faculties and the paralyzing of the will, which is the primary effect of alcohol. Young men who are out for what they term a good time are desirous of getting the young woman to partake of a few glasses of wine, be-cause they know that her manners will become more free and easy, her speech less discreet, and she will be more ready to accept suggestions which her own sense of modesty at another time would cause her to frown upon.
The girl does not know that her moral sense is paralyzed. She is only aware of what seems to her to be increased brilliancy, and she is apt to feel that she is shining in a conversational way, whereas in reality she may be making a silly fool of herself. Being thus in a condition where she cannot truly distinguish right from wrong, she is in the greatest possible danger from the conscienceless young man, who will take advantage of her irresponsible condition to lead her into a situation from which she will find it almost impossible to extricate herself.
Alcohol is looked upon by many as a sexual stimulant, which is doubtless another reason why it is used so universally by unscrupulous men. They figure that, if they can arouse the sex nature of the young woman, she will then more readily respond to their immoral advances ; and, as it does act to lessen her moral sense and the restraint which she would ordinarily put upon herself, in a great many instances it accomplishes its purpose.
Alcohol has, of course, the same effect upon the young man. Its continual use will produce a blunting of the moral sensibilities, which will make it impossible for him properly to perceive moral issues. While it is supposed to be a sexual stimulant, in the long run it becomes destructive of reproductive integrity. Alcohol appears to increase the sexual appetite, while at the same time diminishing the capacity for its satisfaction. This means, of course, that the man who is in the habit of indulging in alcoholic stimulation will be apt to come under the sway of sexual desire with increasing frequency, so that his wife is very apt to find herself meeting a constantly in-creasing demand. The self-control which is necessary to a well-regulated marital relation will be almost entirely lacking, and her condition of bodily servitude, as we might call it, will grow worse instead of better with the succeeding years.
In this connection, also, the wife owes it to her possible children to consider what their heritage will be, if they are conceived while the father is under the influence of alcohol.
Says the eminent Dr. Willard Parker; "The hereditary influence of alcohol manifests itself in various ways. It transmits an appetite for strong drink to children, and these are likely to have that form of drunkenness which may be termed paroxysmal; that is, they will go for a consider-able period without indulging, placing restraint upon themselves, but at last all the barriers of self-control give way, they yield to the irresistible appetite, and then their indulgence is extreme. The drunkard by inheritance is a more helpless slave than his progenitor, and the children that he begets are more helpless still, unless on the mother's side there is engrafted upon them untainted stock. But its hereditary influence is not confined to the propagation of drunkards. It produces insanity, idiocy, epilepsy, and other affections of the brain and nervous system, not only in the transgressor himself, but in the children, and this will transmit predisposition to any of these diseases."
In this connection we must also consider the question of the advisability of the nursing mother using some alcoholic drink such as beer or wine, which are frequently recommended to nursing mothers. The following quotation gives a very clear picture of the effect of such a procedure upon the child.
"A large share of the alcohol finds its way out of the system into the milk, and in this way delicate babies are kept in a state of semi-intoxication from birth until they are weaned. A mother finds her child nervous and fretful. She takes a glass of ale an hour or two before nursing the infant, and is pleased to find that he becomes quiet. She little dreams that his quietude is only the narcotism of alcoholic poi-son; yet such is the truth. Everyone knows that a dose of castor oil given to a nursing mother will affect the child as promptly as the mother. The same is true of alcohol ; but the delicate organism of the infant is far more susceptible to its poisonous influence than is the mother's system. Beginning life under such a regimen, is it any wonder that so large a number of young men, and young women also, develop into drunkards? Such a result is only the fruit of the seeds sown in earliest infancy. The ancient Romans were so well aware of this fact that the use of alcoholic drinks was by law prohibited to a Roman mother while an infant was dependent upon her for food."