In the Hospital
No person ever really lives until he has
found something worth dying for.
Charles L. Allen, God's Psychiatry
(New York; Flemming Revell, Co., 1953) p. 158
awakened with a start. He was disoriented, to say the least.
He was in a strange room with a group of people, all dressed
in white uniforms, who were milling around him. "And for some
strange reason, they're giving me a bath," he quipped in telling
then wrapped in a shorty hospital nightgown, a little bit of
a thing, with no back to speak of, and just a couple of strings
to hold it together. He slowly reached up to his face, unable
to make any sudden movements, and discovered that he was clean
shaven. His hair, the little that he still had left, was cut
short; and he even smelled clean.
felt as if someone evil had packed it full of old, musty, cotton
balls. His tongue felt three inches thick, and he noticed that
his head was throbbing. And the throbbing was getting worse
as the seconds went by.
in his body felt as if they were contracting in a rapid succession
and in no particular order. Some muscles he didn't even know
he had were also acting in this manner. His stomach fluttered
as if it were filled with a flock of Canadian geese who were
migrating south for the winter. At times, the geese all changed
direction and began to migrate north. It was at these times
that Clarence began to vomit.
had a difficult time focusing on anything in the room as did
his brain. As he surveyed the terrain, however, there was one
thing that his eyes did manage to focus upon.
of "Rub" on the window sill. Rubbing Alcohol. "My ace in the
hole," he had thought. He made a mental note. This note was
out of necessity. A mental note of where the alcohol was, and
how to get there. How many steps were necessary to get there
if he were going to need it.
the experience, Clarence said: "I was always scared of the D.T.s
(Delirium Tremens). I never had `em, but I saw some of my buddies
who had `em. And I saw people who died with `em... I figured
if I started seeing a circus; and if there is no tent, I hear
music, and there is no band. There's my answer right there.
The bottle of Rub. People get the D.T.s when they quit drinking.
I was scared to death of `em, that's why I never gave `em a
chance to set in." He was probably never sober enough to get
of where the bottle was, how to get there, and how long it probably
would take, gave him strength. It "gave me guts, my ace in the
hole, that bottle of Rub," he said. He knew that he could conquer
the world knowing that he was only a few short steps from salvation.
Bolstered by his newfound strength, he wasn't too concerned
when the nurse walked into the room.
remembered her as a very large woman. He remembered that her
starched, bleached, white uniform seemed to be bursting at the
seams. Her hair, kind of salt-and-pepper, was plastered back
into a bun that stood out of the back of her skull as if it
were a permanent growth.
nurse's cap was adorned with a couple of medical looking pins;
and it looked as if it were tacked to her head. Steel-rimmed,
bifocal glasses, at least a half dozen chins, on some of which
were situated little, dark brown moles, with long strands of
black hair growing out of them.
no make-up that he could see. She had short - probably bitten-off
nails - white Orthopedic shoes, and stockings with leg hair
clearly visible through them. This vision was Clarence's angel
of mercy as he remembered her. He, at first, thought that this
was the beginnings of the D.T.s, and was ready to bolt from
the bed to the Rub on the shelf. He was ready to bolt, that
is, until he saw what she carried in her hands.
short stubby fingers, she held a small, white, metal tray. This
tray was the kind you found in older hospitals with the edges
chipped off and the black metal underneath showing through.
Spider-web-like veins of black and rust existed throughout its
sat on top of this tray. One large, and one small. The small
glass was filled with what looked like about 30-50 mg of some
sort of white liquid, similar to watered down milk. The other
glass, an eight ounce drinking glass, he was sure contained
over to his bed, ever careful not to spill her precious cargo.
With a low, raspy voice, she said, "Mister Snyder." This was
the first time in a long time that anyone had called him by
Snyder," she said, "I have some medicine here for you. You drink
down this nice medicine here with the milk, and you can follow
it up right after with this whisky." He looked at the two glasses
and then back at the nurse.
had heard a lot about that "nice medicine" from his drinking
buddies. It was probably Paraldehyde. Paraldehyde is a synthetic,
non-Barbiturate, sedative-hypnotic, which is now considered
to be potentially dangerous. It has a bitter taste; therefor
the need for the milk. It also causes burning in the mucus membranes.
In hypnotic doses, such as the one they attempted to give to
Clarence, it can induce sleep in as little as ten minutes; and
its effects would usually last from four to ten hours.
knew what that little glass held. "That stuff will knock you
flatter than a rug, real quick," he thought. No way was he going
to fall for that "nice medicine" line that the nurse was trying
to hand him. He wasn't born yesterday.
up in the bed, put on his most sincere face, looked the nurse
right in her eyes, and said, "Lady, I come down here to quit
drinking, not to drink. I'll thank you to take that stuff away
stated that it was probably one of the worst and stupidest moves
he had ever made in his life until then. This was because the
nurse did indeed, take the tray away. He remembered that he
"suffered the agonies of the damned." He began to sweat profusely.
He felt as if spiders and other small insects were crawling
all over his body and his insides in large numbers. He shook
and convulsed, screamed and cursed. He threw up until there
was nothing left in his system to throw up anymore, and then
he continued with the dry heaves. He held on to the bed railings
for dear life, but not once did he make an attempt to get to
that "bottle of Rub" on the window sill.
about the Rub, obsessed on it, wondered if it would take away
this agony. But he knew, despite the pain that he was feeling,
that if he took even one little sip, his agony would be prolonged.
He knew that his life would probably be over. This, he knew,
was his last chance at redemption.
he entered Akron City Hospital and refused that one last drink
was the tenth of February, 1938. The next day, his first full
day free from beverage alcohol, became Clarence Henry Snyder's
sobriety date. The date that he celebrated for the next forty-six
years. February 11, 1938.