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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/FarsideIsland 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.

Despite the use of beer in the description, this trope also applies to other forms of drugs. Notably caffeine. Compare Going Cold Turkey, when the sudden withdrawal is a voluntary decision on Bob's part.

Compare 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.

Examples of Nailed to the Wagon include:

Anime and 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.
    • While El-Hazard does have native alcoholic beverages, they just have to keep Fisjisawa away from them but in the OAV at least, Fujisawa is also a smoker and El-Hazard has no tobacco equivalent. Fujisawa runs out of smokes about half way through the last episode and the nicotine cravings kick in just in time for the finale. Good thing it turns out that it turns his sober level super-strength Up to Eleven.

Comic Books

  • Tintin and the Picaros has Captain Haddock getting slipped a drug by Professor Calculus that makes him extremely nauseous whenever he takes a sip of liquor. He's none too pleased when he finds out.


  • In the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie, 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 take 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.
  • Jeff Portnoy, Jack Black's character from Tropic Thunder.
  • Nathan Algren in The Last Samurai. A chronic 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 needs it. Algren asks for sake, then screams for it, then screams period at the guilty memories he can't drown in booze anymore.
  • Renton's parents in Trainspotting lock him in his room to force him through withdrawal.
  • In Cornered, the storeowner forces his junkie nephew, who is craving for a fix, to stay in the apartment above the store every night until he's well.


  • 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 death. He's forced sober when they hole up in an abandoned government base to escape assassins.
  • 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.
  • 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".
  • Upon the announcement of the Quarter Quell in Catching Fire, Peeta dumps all of Haymitch's liquor, much to the latter's dismay. 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.
  • As revenge against Maladict (a vampire), a soldier in Monstrous Regiment steals Maladict's coffee machine and beans, resulting in a vampire getting more and more insane and willing to revert to drinking blood as the book goes on.
  • 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

Live Action TV

  • 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.
  • Supernatural: Dean and Bobby lock Sam up in the panic room to "detox" from demon's blood.
  • 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) was amongst the reasons why he blacked out in the middle of a rant.
  • In an episode of Mash, Hawkeye and BJ 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 of Frasier has him attempt to counsel his agent Bibi into quitting smoking. He ends up holing her up in his apartment for three days, but in the end all the encouragement she needs is to be reminded that her "84 year-old and on his third pacemaker" fiancé won't marry her unless she quits.
  • Charlie from Lost is a heroin addict until he crashes on the island, where he has no access to drugs. or so he thinks.

Newspaper Comics

  • 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.

Real Life

  • A smoker was on a Coach—that didn't allow smoking—for what would have been twelve hours had her craving not gotten the better of her.
    • To clarify, a passenger on a long distance, non-smoking bus just couldn't take it anymore and exited the bus while it was on the highway, dying in the process.


  • 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. Liriel's reason for alcoholism? She was trying to suppress the pain of Diva'ratrika's Aura Possession.
  • Phillip from Goats during the whole multiverse arc. He's kept prisoner in a "dry dimension" where there's no beer.
  • 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.
  • 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 it's 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.

Western Animation

  • One Metalocalypse villain's Start of Darkness resulted from his legally mandated sobriety.
  • Life's a Zoo: Happens to the entire cast in "Self Helpless" when all the housemates are forcibly deprived of their addictive vices.