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Nailed to the Wagon

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Well one fall day when Uncle Bill was having a cocaine fit
He said Louise this coke's no good and I've made up my mind to quit
Now you take this key and I'll go upstairs and then you lock the door
And Lord I swear I'll stay up there, till I don't want dope no more.
Johnny Cash, When Uncle Bill Quit Dope

Bob likes his booze. A lot. He may be a recreational alcoholic, or drinks to escape remembering his Dark and Troubled Past. Fate, being a cruel and fickle mistress, has other ideas. Alice drags Bob (usually shambling and slurring rather than kicking and screaming) somewhere without liquor of any kind. The reasons vary; Alice may be doing an intervention, she may be trying to save his life from people out for his blood, or Bob (all by his lonesome) stumbled onto a bus/ship/plane/rocket/Farside Island to a place where the only spirits are of the figurative variety.

Effectively, Bob has been nailed to the wagon and will be forced to go sober against his wishes. He'll whine, complain and take every opportunity to get a drop of booze. (Oddly, he will seldom see Pink Elephants, although in Real Life, they are the consequences of withdrawal rather than drunkenness.) However, once he's over a rather epic hangover and finishes his physical withdrawal, he'll do the emotional equivalent of curling into a ball in a corner because now he can no longer avoid facing his life. If he can resolve whatever emotional hangups were leading him to drink the sadness away, he may decide that being sober is better, and it will stick. If he's fundamentally unchanged, he'll jump Off the Wagon into the nearest vat of beer.

While this kind of gesture is usually well-intentioned, in Real Life completely cutting a person off from physically addicting drugs can cause withdrawal symptoms so severe that they could actually die from the body's chemical imbalance. So for any readers hoping to help a loved one get off the juice, remember to do so gradually and preferably under a doctor's supervision.

Despite the use of beer in the description, this trope also applies to other forms of drugs. Notably caffeine.

A form of Kind Restraints. Compare Going Cold Turkey, when the sudden withdrawal is a voluntary decision on Bob's part. Also see No Matter How Much I Beg, where the character makes the decision to shut himself away from temptation, with friends enlisted to enforce that decision after the fact.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • El-Hazard's Mr. Fujisawa: He hates being sober, but he gains super-strength from it, so the other characters enter a conspiracy to keep him off the bottle. He doesn't take it well. And while El-Hazard does have native alcoholic beverages, in the OAV at least, Fujisawa is also a smoker and El-Hazard has no tobacco equivalent. Fujisawa runs out of smokes about halfway through the last episode and the nicotine cravings kick in just in time for the finale. Good thing it turns out that it boosts his sober level Super-Strength.

    Comic Books 
  • Batman does this to himself when he gets hooked on Venom. He locks himself up in the Batcave and doesn't come out until he's totally free of the drug.
  • Tintin:
    • Red Rackham's Treasure has all his whisky onboard replaced with the pieces to Professor Calculus's submarine; he's none too pleased when he finds steel plates instead of his beloved whisky. Thankfully (for him) he doesn't have to wait too long after the discovery that his beloved alcohol has gone missing; once the wreck of the Unicorn is discovered, they find it's full of bottles of rum, which are (surprisingly) still drinkable with only the usual effects.
    • Tintin and the Picaros has Captain Haddock getting slipped a drug by Professor Calculus that makes him extremely nauseated whenever he takes a sip of liquor. He's none too pleased when he finds out, but the drug becomes a Chekhov's Gun when it's later used to sober up the Picaros so they can launch their revolution (the dictatorship has been parachuting crates of booze to them so they'll be too drunk to shoot straight).

    Comic Strips 
  • Bloom County:
    • Binkley once forced his father to quit cigarettes cold turkey by disposing of all of those in their house and hiding his wallet and his car keys so he couldn't go out and buy more.
    • Opus hid Steve Dallas's cigarettes. This might not have been his best idea.
      • "Even with nicotine IN his bloodstream, Steve is a maniac!"
      • Steve: "WHERE'D YA HIDE 'EM?! ... POUND! POUND! POUND!"note 

    Fan Works 
  • Fallout: Equestria: Littlepip is tranquilized by Velvet Remedy and dragged to a rehab clinic when her addiction to Party-Time Mint-Alls gets out of control.
  • Maria Campbell of the Astral Clocktower: Maria of Cainhurst, like many people in her world, was addicted to the power in everyone's blood. Even Maria, who started as a Wide-Eyed Idealist and became a Well-Intentioned Extremist, had a habit of losing control and drinking her maids dry on a regular basis. Then she gets reincarnated into the world of Fortune Lover as Maria Campbell, where she promptly discovers that no one's blood has any power whatsoever. She occasionally tries drinking it anyway, only to invariably be disappointed. She's basically an alcoholic in a world without alcohol.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • In The Basketball Diaries, Jim's friend Reggie imprisons him in his (Reggie's) apartment and makes him go off heroin cold turkey. He fully detoxes, but eventually relapses. He later gets clean again while doing six months at Riker's, and this time he's able to stay that way.
  • In Cornered!, the store owner forces his junkie nephew, who is craving for a fix, to stay in the apartment above the store every night until he's well.
  • In Dogma, after two drunk angels tell God to Take This Job and Shove It, He decrees that the rest of them can no longer drink alcohol. The booze-loving Metatron resorts to sipping and then spitting out his drinks.
  • In Father Goose Walter is nailed to the wagon twice in the same movie:
    • In the first instance his friend and employer Cmdr. Houghton hides his booze around the island that Walter is using as a coastwatching base, giving him the hiding places only when Walter radios in with Japanese troop movements. Houghton then has to give up all the booze locations as incentive to get Walter to go on a risky mission.
    • Having got all the booze, the mission turns out to be the rescue of (initially) prudish school teacher Catherine and her students. Catherine then arranges for the children to steal all the booze and hide it again.
  • To make sure he's sober before his hearing, Denzel Washington in Flight is confined to his hotel room with a security guard barring exit and entry, with a mini-bar stocked with nothing harder than Diet Coke. The unlocked adjacent room, however, has a fully stocked mini-bar.
  • Ghost (1990): The "subway ghost" has learned how to manipulate objects (and teaches the protagonist), but not enough to light and smoke a cigarette (which apparently was his addiction when he was living). "I'd do anything for just one drag!"
  • Nathan Algren in The Last Samurai. A alcoholic for almost a decade after being forced to slaughter an innocent Indian village, he takes a job in Japan to train Imperial conscripts and is subsequently injured and captured during their first real battle. While he's on the mend, Taka gives him sake at first but then withholds it after seeing how desperately he it. Algren asks for sake, then screams for it, then screams period at the guilty memories he can't drown in booze anymore.
  • Monty Python and the Holy Grail has a sexual variant when Sir Galahad the Chaste gets sidetracked to a castle full of sex-starved babes. He's about to give in when Sir Lancelot nails him back to the wagon in an Unwanted Rescue.
  • In Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, when Elizabeth and Jack are dropped off on a remote island by Barbossa, Elizabeth is annoyed to discover that, rather than being as remote as Jack led people to believe, it was actually a hideaway for rumrunners. Jack plans to get piss-drunk and does so. After he passes out, Elizabeth takes the opportunity to use all the rest of the rum as fuel for a honking huge signal bonfire. It works, but Jack is more hung up on the fact that all the rum is now gone.
  • In Resolution, our hero chains his friend to the wall to make him get straight. This turns out to be a very bad idea.
  • Renton has his parents, in Trainspotting, lock him in his room to force himself through withdrawal. In his case, he does see Pink Elephants. Specifically, a baby crawling towards him on the roof. It gets worse, but it sticks eventually.
  • Tropic Thunder: Jeff Portnoy is wrestling with a severe drug addiction during the actors' misadventures in the jungle. At one point he asks to be tied to a tree until he "gets it out of his system." He tells the others not to untie him, no matter how much he begs. Predictably, he does, even going as far as to tell Alpa Chino "I will literally suck your dick right now" in exchange for being untied.

  • An alcoholic, a heroin addict, and a smoker die and go before the pearly gates. Saint Peter tells them that in order to access Heaven, they will be locked in a room with an infinite supply of their favorite drug for a year, and, should they use it even once, they'll go to Hell. One year later, Saint Peter finds the alcoholic laying in a pile of empty bottles and the heroin addict full of needles, but the smoker calmly sits in the middle of the room with not a single cigarette used. Saint Peter congratulates him and asks how he did it. The smoker calmly answers: "You forgot the lighter."

  • Eddie of Stephen King's Dark Tower books gets nailed to the wagon when Roland kidnaps him into a heroin-less Mid-World through a magic door in The Drawing of the Three. Notably, the nailing is permanent.
  • In The Dresden Files book Proven Guilty, Molly Carpenter inflicts this on a pair of addicts by using Black Magic to rewire their cravings into prohibitive revulsion for their drug of choice. Although it's effective and well-intentioned, it's also a form of Mind Rape for overriding their free will, and one of her victims winds up with serious psychological damage because she got careless.
  • The Hunger Games:
    • Catching Fire: Upon the announcement of the Quarter Quell, Peeta dumps all of Haymitch's liquor, much to the latter's dismay, and caps it off by going to District 12's liquor seller and threatening to turn her in to the Peacekeepers if she sells to him. This is in spite of the fact that Haymitch had previously had a rather terrifying withdrawal when he ran out of liquor, but the sobriety doesn't last long anyway.
    • Mockingjay: Happens to Haymitch again when the survivors of District 12 move into the underground bunkers of District 13, where all alcoholic beverages are strictly forbidden and even the rubbing alcohol in the hospital is locked away. He's kept in seclusion until he recovers enough to be presentable.
  • As apparent revenge against Maladict (a vampire who's managed to replace the blood thirst with something else), a soldier in Monstrous Regiment steals Maladict's coffee machine and beans, resulting in a vampire getting more and more insane and having mind flashes note  and willing to revert to drinking blood as the book goes on. It turns out Strappi's just a bastard, and it helps that he hates Mal. Though attempted -by-proxy was maybe not the best way to show it.
  • Long Joseph in Otherland, who was the father to one of the heroes, drank to avoid responsibility for his children and sadness over his wife's . He's forced sober when they hole up in an abandoned government base to escape assassins.
  • During the Gulf War, P.J. O'Rouke was sent by Rolling Stone to join the war correspondents in Saudi Arabia, and recounted that because the strictly Islamic nation was dry in more ways than one, some of them sobered for the first time in years (himself possibly included), and found that "what they thought was the pain of genius was actually a hangover".
  • Professor Moriarty Series: In The Revenge of Moriarty, Moriarty tries to enforce a version of this trope that is not meant to help the addict by cutting off Sherlock Holmes's cocaine supply, hoping that the withdrawal will destroy him. It turns out that Holmes secretly kicked his cocaine addiction some time ago, and he uses Moriarty's plan to lure the professor into a trap that he barely escapes.
  • How Ryan Miller of Ripper (2014) got sober: he was entitled to accept help from a program from the Veterans Administration, but he was too proud or too macho for that. A like-minded neighbor had him strip naked and left him by himself in his apartment without any of his clothes, his phone or his computer for three days. He is absolutely miserable and even contemplates breaking out the window. But when she comes to get him, he is clean and manages to stay clean for years.
  • Peter Benchley's novel Rummies has addicts sent to a rehab center that relies on this, forcing its patients to immediately quit and avoid whatever they're addicted to.
  • Also happens to Jack in King's The Shining, since all liquor was removed from the Overlook during the hotel's shutdown for the winter.
  • Paula's parents force her to detox in Ugly Memories by ML Lanzillotta. This hurts more than it helps. In fact, the withdrawal-induced sleep deprivation indirectly leads to Paula getting kicked out of rehab at the story's climax.
  • Wars of Light and Shadow:
    • In Ships of Merior, Asandir makes sure that Dakar (a well-established drunk, glutton, and lech) keeps a hastily-given promise (which he fully intends to break) by cursing him so that the finest alcohol tastes like turpentine, the tastiest food tastes like shit, and the thought of getting with a woman gives him sharp pains in his groin until he gets off his stubborn duff and catches up with Arithon.
    • Later, in Warhost of Vastmark, Arithon ensures that Dakar remain sober by pitching all the alcohol over the side of the ship while Dakar is passed out.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In the Babylon 5 episode "Objects at Rest", Londo visits Sheridan and Delenn at their home on Minbar to give them a gift, where there is no alcohol on the premises (or likely easily obtainable on the planet), due to the Minbari having a huge neurological aversion to alcohol that gives them a psychotic reaction to it. This is actually an unfortunate thing for Londo and all involved, given that alcohol is the only thing that can temporarily the Keeper that controls Londo, and it is the only way that Londo can warn the couple of the danger of the gift he brings them. (Likely the same Keeper also prevented Londo from packing booze for the trip, though he drank plenty on Centauri Prime, where the Drakh who controlled him through the Keeper could watch him directly as well.)
  • This happens to Hal in Season 4 of Being Human (UK) to get him off blood.
  • One episode of Criminal Minds featured an unsub kidnapping drug-addicted young women and keeping them locked in his basement without access to their drugs of choice, forcing them to not only quit but also become healthier in general (he even provided a UV light to compensate for the lack of sun). One of his victims even asks if it's a hardcore rehab program. Of course, that's not his actual goal. Drug addicts are just easy to get hold of, and he the girls healthy so that they can bear his children. If they don't manage that, or worse, give him daughters, he kills them anyway.
  • In Eureka, Doctor Grant (who is from the late 1940s and believes Smoking Is Cool) is injected with nanobots that hurt him when he smokes.
  • One episode of Frasier has him attempt to counsel his agent Bebe into quitting smoking. He ends up holing her up in his apartment for three days, but in the end, all the encouragement she is to be reminded that her "85 years old and on his third pacemaker" fiancĂ© won't marry her unless she quits.
  • Happens accidentally in It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia when The Gang (notably hypochondriac Frank) believes they're all coming down with a deadly . They're sealed in one of the bar's bathrooms, where their worsening physical conditions lead them to believe they really are dying. Eventually, Charlie reveals he replaced all the cleaning solution with alcohol, and they decide to have one last drink. Several minutes later, they find that all their symptoms have suddenly vanished, and realize that they weren't sick in a traditional sense, but rather going through withdrawal symptoms due to all being severe alcoholics. They decide to save dealing with the latter revelation for a later date.
  • Charlie from Lost is a heroin addict until he crashes on the island, where he has no access to drugs. Or so he thinks.
  • M*A*S*H:
    • Hawkeye and Trapper are forced to remain sober after their beloved still is confiscated by Frank Burns. They are disturbed to discover just how dependent they have become on their rotgut gin.
    • In another episode, one of BJ's patients turns out to have a morphine addiction. When BJ finds out, he turns to this trope, and after an agonizing (for the patient, at least) half an episode, the patient seemingly kicks the habit.
    • One episode shows why this can backfire. One of Margaret's old drinking buddies join the staff. When she shows up to the OR drunk, she gets Nailed to the Wagon, promising not to drink. A few days later, delirium tremens hits when she's in a crowded mess tent; Colonel Potter recognizes the symptoms, gets her to the recovery tent immediately for proper treatment, and admonishes Margaret for making her quit cold turkey.
  • My Name Is Earl: In the second episode, Earl kidnaps the mother of one of his friends and tries to help her by forcing her to quit smoking while trying to kick the habit himself. Catalina called it the sweetest, most justified kidnapping she's ever seen.
  • Stargate Universe: Dr. Rush. Involuntary caffeine and nicotine withdrawal (he was a heavy smoker and coffee drinker on Earth but they could only grab emergency supplies and they didn't include coffee or cigarettes) is amongst the reasons why he blacks out in the middle of a rant.
  • Star Trek: Picard: In "Broken Pieces", Raffi decides I Need a Freaking Drink.
    Raffi: Burgundy. (replicator beeps, nothing happens) Red wine. (replicator beeps, nothing happens)
    EHH: (materializing) What is the nature of your hospitality emergency?
    Raffi: I a glass of red wine.
    EHH: You alcohol services from your quarters two days ago.
    Raffi: Reinstate it. Override.
    EHH: You locked yourself out of override and... (consulting PADD) meta-override.
  • Supernatural: Dean and Bobby lock Sam up in the panic room to "detox" from demon's blood.

    Video Games 
  • In The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, a Khajiit by the name of J'zhar signs both himself and his brother J'darr up for an expedition to a remote ruin in order to break J'Darr's Skooma addiction. It doesn't go well, and J'Darr eventually his brother with an ax.
  • In Persona 5, following the fourth Palace, the gang spends a week rehabilitating resident hikikomori Futaba Sakura, who had spent two years shut away in her room at Sojiro's house due to the trauma of her mother's apparent suicide and the subsequent shunning she received from her family. Somewhat averted in that, while she takes numerous opportunities to hide behind someone or wear a mask, she clearly wants to improve and has little trouble adding to conversations or even holding them if the subject interests her.
  • You can do this to colonists with addictions in RimWorld, by removing both their legs (by installing and removing peg legs) so they physically can't get to the drug stash (and replacing the legs with prostheses once they are no longer addicted). You can also just arrest them and lock them up until they get through withdrawal but that has the risk of them violently resisting arrest, or breaking out and heading back to the drug stash. If you want to avoid blatant Video Game Cruelty Potential you can simply burn all the drugs, but some are valuable trade goods, or useful in certain circumstances.

    Visual Novels 
  • Henry declines any alcohol for the first half of Double Homework, as his doctor told him to avoid it from then on to avoid getting cirrhosis of the liver.

    Web Animation 
  • One episode of Happy Tree Friends has Nutty land in the hospital when he consumes a literal truckload of candy. Sniffles decides to get Nutty to kick his sugar addiction by locking him in a padded cell for an indefinite amount of time.

  • Tanked gets Nailed To The Wagon in Bear Nuts chapter 29: "Tanked Goes Dry", when one of Evil's pranks causes the zoo to lose its liquor license, cutting off Tanked's supply. None of the other bears are particularly happy about this since Tanked starts throwing tantrums all over the place. The following chapter (":The Origin Of Tanked") reveals that, thanks to a particular childhood experience, going sober might be legitimately bad for Tanked.
  • This happens to Liriel, aka "Blueberry" in Drowtales, notable for her being a teenager by drow standards (but chronologically in her thirties). She's forced sober because Ariel takes her (she's Ariel's slave) to the overworld to look for a friend and her alcohol stash is destroyed in an attack. She grows increasingly loopy as time goes on and at one point attempts to eat some grass, taking Kyo'nne's earlier reference to there being "herbs" on the surface that can get you high a bit too literally. Liriel's reason for alcoholism? She was trying to suppress the pain of Diva'ratrika's Aura Possession, and being forced off the wagon finally lets Diva break through fully.
  • Phillip from Goats during the whole multiverse arc. He's kept prisoner in a "dry dimension" where there's no beer.
  • Gamzee Makara from Homestuck gets nailed to the wagon when he runs out of sopor slime to make pies from. The slime is known to have degenerative effects on troll's brains. To say "shit hits the fan" is putting it lightly, considering that he Equius, Nepeta, and attempts to off Terezi.
  • Rumisiel from Misfile is forced to stay sober while living with Ash and her dad. It's a work in progress for all of them.

    Western Animation 

    Real Life 
  • A smoker was on a long-distance Coach bus—that didn't allow smoking. When she just couldn't take it anymore, she got up and exited the bus while it was on the highway, dying in the process.
  • Very much Truth in Television, as any medical professional working in a holiday destination can testify. A nice family vacation in some remote mountain village, and daddy cut off from all his usual secret sources of booze, makes for an exciting trip to your local hospital to treat withdrawal symptoms. Which can be life-threatening, so Don't Try This at Home.
  • Also Truth in Television for people looking for rentals. In many places, even outdoor off-property smokers are refused or evicted, so the choice often comes down to quit smoking (or lie about it and hope to never be caught), pay far more for a less controlling roommate, or be homeless. Also extends to alcohol for some roommates/living situations - there are some that will evict people for as much as having a can of beer in their room.
  • Many visitors to Muslim countries find that getting booze can be quite difficult, expensive, or both, resulting in severe cutbacks to consumption or even total sobriety. The reaction to this varies, but Central Asia, North Africa, and the Middle East are not considered great destinations for boozehounds. Then again, if you can prove you are a Christian and like your wine, North Africa isn't too bad...
  • An almost-literal version of being nailed to the wheel: when the British Army abolished flogging in 1881, the draconian Field Punishment Number One was substituted. This was in use until after the end of WW1 and only abolished in 1923. Used for offences just short of court-martial, including and often imposed for habitual drunkenness, the punishment involved tying the offender by wrists and ankle to a wheel. Whether or not this wheel belonged to a vehicle in motion was at the whim of the officer. The punishment was explicitly referred to as "crucifixion" and was probably the last survival of the mediaeval punishment of "breaking on the wheel". note . An appalled observer of one punishment wrote:
    "One fine evening two military policemen appeared with a handcuffed prisoner, and, in full view of the crowd and villagers, tied him to the wheel of a limber, cruciform fashion. The poor devil, a British Tommy, was undergoing Field Punishment Number One, and this public exposure was part of the punishment. There was a dramatic silence as every eye watched the man being fastened to the wheel, and some jeering started. Lashing men to a wheel in public was one of the most disgraceful things in the war."


Video Example(s):



Kaeloo decides to make Quack-Quack go without yogurt (which is essentially a drug in the show's universe) for one full hour, causing him to experience withdrawal symptoms.

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