By Mitchell K. © 1991, 1997
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Index of Chapter 3

3.1 - Home...for just a brief moment 3.6 - On Our Knees
3.2 - The Mad Butcher of Kingsbury Run 3.7 - At T. Henry and C. Williams' Home
3.3 - Meeting the Doctor 3.8 - The Meeting at T. Henry's
3.4 - Back to Cleveland 3.9 - The Message is Brought to Cleveland
3.5 - In the Hospital 3.10 - Cleveland Begins to Come of Age

Chapter 3.4

Back To Cleveland

...the theoretical importance of the instincts of self-preservation, of self-assertion and of mastery greatly diminishes. They are component instincts whose function is to assure that the organism shall follow its own path to death, and to ward off any possible ways of returning to inorganic existence other than those which are imminent in the organism itself. We have no longer to reckon with the organism's puzzling determination (so hard to fit into any context) to maintain its own existence in the face of every obstacle. What we are left with is the fact that the organism wishes to die only in its own fashion. Thus these guardians of life, too, were originally the myrmidons of death. Hence arises the paradoxical situation that the living organism struggles most energetically against events (dangers, in fact) which might help it to attain its life's aim rapidly - by a kind of short-circuit.

Sigmund Freud, Beyond the Pleasure Principle (Bantam Books, 1959) p. 72

Somehow Clarence found his way back to Cleveland. Not back to his home, but to the East Side. He was an explorer. He would go anyplace, a bar room, an abandoned building, a deserted alley. He would explore and, quite often, discover things that were beneficial to his very existence, his survival.

At this particular point in time he was exploring the basements of bars. "I got a lot of free booze doing that," he recalled. There was one bar in particular that was located in East Cleveland that he chose to visit at least twice per week, sometimes more often when other pickings became slim.

It was one of the larger establishments, which contained a nice restaurant as well as a bar. Sometimes food was the focus of his quest, but, more often than not, it was beverage alcohol.

He had found his way into the basement of this particular East Side building through a delivery ramp that was never locked. Much to his delight, he had discovered a wide array of empty bottles. Beer bottles, wine bottles, Champaign bottles, whiskey bottles. Every kind of bottle, in all shapes, sizes and colors imaginable. Even some that he had never imagined existed.

If they contained at least a drop of their former contents, Clarence didn't care what the alcohol was, or what it looked like or tasted like. All the bottles had one thing in common, according to Clarence: They all contained at least a couple of drops of that precious elixir that he needed in order to live.

Sometimes he got lucky, and the bottle contained more than a few drops. Sometimes the bottles were almost full. The full bottles contained alcohol that had somehow spoiled, and a customer returned it. Clarence didn't care. Mixed with the rest of the contents of the other bottles, it all tasted the same.

In the 1930's, bars were required to dispose of the empty bottles by destroying them. This bar in particular, and many others, got away with leaving the empties intact. Probably by paying authorities to leave the establishment alone.

Clarence developed a twice-weekly ritual of dealing with the bottles. He had found a large, flat, metal pan with a protective lip, and when he had finished his ritual, he would hide the pan in the dark recesses of an unused corner. Into this pan he would pour the last remaining drops from the bottles. He patiently let each bottle drip slowly into the pan, making sure that he didn't lose one precious drop. If only he could have squeezed these bottles to speed up the process, he would have done so.

His pan would fill up with a murky, colored liquid, as he drained the bottles. When the pan was full, he would rapidly drink the mixture and begin the process all over again. "Boy, what a buzz you can get on that stuff," he once commented.

Clarence was "on the bum" for about a month and a half in East Cleveland. Ever wary of the Mad Butcher, and of what were known as the Nickel Plate Railroad Police. These police were, in reality, just a group of "paid goons," as Clarence called them.

Clarence was about six feet tall. He weighed one hundred and thirty pounds, soaking wet in his clothing. And this time in his life, he was relegated to living in hobo shanty towns, under bridges like the Kinsman Road Bridge - which was about two thirds of a mile up from Jackass Hill. Anywhere he could "flop," he would do so.

He could not remember any time in his life that he had felt so alone, so desolate, so afraid and so lost. Not only lost as to where he was at this particular time, but lost as to where he was going in his life. Lost even as where he had come from. He had lost his wife, his home, his son, a lucrative banking career, his health, his clothing, his self-respect, and he often feared even his sanity. Or whatever there was left of it.

Everything that had ever meant anything to Clarence was gone. Gone except for the ever-present, urgent need, and overwhelming, burning desire for beverage alcohol. There he was, just thirty-five years old, cold, wet, sick, and - most devastating of all - hopeless.

Two events occurred in the latter part of January, in the year 1937, that would eventually have a profound impact on the remainder of Clarence Snyder's life. A life that, unbeknown to him, had already been touched by Divine Providence.

The first event occurred during one of Clarence's exploratory sojourns, Clarence came across a discarded issue of a recent national magazine. While he was glancing through this issue, an article immediately caught his eye. The article appeared graphically to spell out what Clarence felt that he had become, all that he was.

The magazine was the Saturday Evening Post. The issue was January 15, 1937. And the article was titled, "The Unhappy Drinker." It was written by Frances T. Chambers, Jr., as told to Gretta Palmer.

Chambers was a self-professed alcoholic who had been "cured" by Richard R. Peabody, of 224 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston, Mass. Richard R. Peabody was the author of a book (extremely popular during the early 1930's), titled "The Common Sense Of Drinking." A book that many of the founding members of what was to become "Alcoholics Anonymous" had read with great interest.

The Peabody book was an outgrowth of an earlier study titled, "Psychotherapeutic Procedure in the Treatment of Chronic Alcoholism," This study had been read before the Harvard Psychological Society and the Boston Society of Psychiatry and Neurology.

The study was later published as the book, The Common Sense of Drinking. Coincidentally, after his book was published in 1931, Peabody moved from Boston, Massachusetts, to New York City. He moved to 24 Gramercy Park. Peabody's home was located in the same neighborhood as Calvary Episcopal Church, where the Rev. Samuel M. Shoemaker was the Rector and was active in the Oxford Group. The same neighborhood as the Olive Tree Inn where Ebby T. had gone to. This Mission, on East 23rd Street was also where Bill Wilson had "taken the pledge."

In any event, Chambers - the author of the Post article - had worked with alcoholics in his private practice in very much the same manner that Richard R. Peabody had previously worked with Chambers. According to the article, Chambers took treatment with alcoholics. "Are you ready to stop drinking," he would ask. "No," the patient often answered - with a dare-to-make-me air.

Chambers related this example: "`All right,' I told him. `Call me up when you are.' As I hung up the telephone receiver, I fancied I could hear him pouring himself another drink, but within twenty-four hours he telephoned me to announce that he wanted to stop. Until that had happened, I could do nothing for him; It is my strong belief that no man was ever helped by being hoisted onto the water wagon by his friends or advisors. He must climb up of his own free will."

Clarence knew he was indeed unhappy. He also knew he desperately needed to stop drinking. He knew that the doctor in Akron was probably his only hope. This in spite of his overwhelming fear that the very same doctor might be the feared Mad Butcher.

Clarence ripped out the Post article and kept it with him at all times. Whenever he experienced doubts, he re-read it. Many years later, he mounted the article on pieces of colored paper and wrote beneath it: "My first intimation that alcoholism was a disease-my first ray of hope."

Thinking back on this, Clarence once stated that he felt that the article was a message directly from God to him. "James Snyder" was the name of the photographer from the New York Times who had taken the photograph at the heading of the Saturday Evening Post article. Clarence had thought, at the time, that this was proof that the article in the Saturday Evening Post did solidify Clarence's start towards sobriety.

Interestingly, this very same magazine would publish an article about Alcoholics Anonymous just over four years later, on March 1, 1941. That article would be the start for many more thousands of alcoholics to begin their journey on the road to sobriety. That national publicity would catapult Alcoholics Anonymous toward of what it has become today.

However, there were still some reservations about sobriety that were left in Clarence's alcohol-clouded mind. Fears and doubts. Fears about the doctor and who he possibly might be, and doubts concerning the possibility of success. The kind of success that had eluded him so often in the past and, with each failure, had become even a more remote possibility. So it took one more event to solidify Clarence's resolve to quit drinking for good.

That other significant event occurred deep within the woods of Kingsbury Run. Clarence, after reading the article about the "Unhappy Drinker," had been in constant turmoil over the sorry state of affairs his life had taken.

As he lay on the cold damp ground, in the midst of his so-called peers, "a bunch of bums (he called them)," he glanced around. He looked at the squalor, the ravaged faces, and the disheveled clothing. Fear and desolation sank in. The picture surrounded him on all sides and was even evident within his own body, mind, and spirit.

All in Kingsbury Run were in constant fear and terror of the Mad Butcher, the Railroad Police, and even of each other. All were mere shadows of their former selves, suffering from loss of the spark of life. The spark that kept them alive, or at least managing an existence.

They were indeed, the walking dead. The great unwashed and the great unshaved. This is what his life had become. Unless he did something soon, and something drastic, this is where his life, such as it was, would anonymously end. He would cease to exist with no one to know and no one to care. His clothing would be removed from his emaciated body, and his remains would be rolled into a ditch or shallow grave for the vermin to feast upon. Such was to be his legacy.

Clarence vaguely remembered the doctor in Akron somewhere deep within the recesses of his foggy brain. He remembered that the doctor had talked to him about "fixing drunks" so that they never drank again. He remembered the glow, and the radiance that the doctor had about him.

He wanted that in and for his life. He somehow knew the doctor was probably the one man, no matter how afraid of him that he was, that could put some meaning and purpose back into his meager and now meaningless life.

He attempted to stand up. He had a difficult time with this; but after considerable effort, he did manage to stand erect. Well, as erect as a man in his weakened condition could get, or even hope to get. All it took, he felt, was determination. He made an attempt to dust off his clothing. The clothing that was so imbedded with dirt and filth that his dusting simply caused a small cloud around himself. A cloud that, like a magnet, was drawn back to the very same clothing he was trying to clean. Discouraged, he gave that up shortly and tried to brush back whatever hair was left on his head. He then made a loud and bold announcement to those of his peers who happened to have been gathered in the vicinity.

"I'm through with this foolishness, I'm going to quit drinking," he said. After the laughter subsided somewhat, no one responded or even looked up at him. After all, he was just like them, a hopeless drunk. He repeated his statement to the gathered masses - even louder this time and with more conviction: "I'm through with this foolishness, I'm going to quit drinking !" The laughter and derision continued. Shouts of "sit down and shut up" were heard from the group.

One of the other drunks made an effort to stand. Clarence remembered him only as a "flannel mouthed Irishman," one of the leaders and a spokesperson of the group. This man placed his hands on his hips and laughed. His head was thrown back, mouth wide open, exhibiting a large, almost toothless grin.

"You quit drinking," the Irishman said. "You'll never quit drinking. Look at you. You don't have the guts to quit drinking." Clarence took a couple of unsteady steps forward, but not enough to be in direct swinging range of this other person. He put his hands on his own hips and yelled, "I'm gonna quit drinking!" The Irishman took a few more steps closer and pushed his face into Clarence's. "You'll NEVER quit drinking!" Spit was flying out of the Irishman's mouth. "You know that to quit takes determination. To have determination you have to have a chin. Look at you," he roared. He continued to laugh; and then said, "You've got a chin like Andy Gump. You're no damned good!"

The Irishman was no doubt sharing from his own experiences. He too, had probably quit drinking, with determination and with his large and chiseled chin many times in the past. Times too numerous to remember, with little or no success.

Clarence then got even closer, and yelled even louder. He threw caution was thrown to the wind. "I'm gonna quit drinking, I know a doctor in Akron that can fix me," he shouted. The Irishman yelled back, moving right into Clarence's face: "No one can fix you!" Clarence replied, "I'll show you." The Irishman laughed into his face, and said, "Show me."

The shouting continued for about a half hour. A small group of the drunks was egging Clarence on and the rest egged on the other man. Though it probably looked quite pathetic, the scene was probably also quite funny as well. Two drunken "bums," face-to-face, hands on their respective hips in the midst of a cadre of other "bums." Dregs of society, surrounded by the squalor that exemplified Kingsbury Run.

With the last little bit of pride he was able to muster, Clarence utilized almost all of the strength that was left in his emaciated body. He wheeled around, luckily without falling, and staggered away.

The sharp and stinging sounds of laughter, jeers of derision, and even some scattered applause were ringing in his ears. The sounds faded as he picked up his pace. His head was now held high as he picked up speed, proud of what he thought was his final decision. Proud, and deathly afraid of the unknown prospect that lay ahead. The prospect of possibly finding out who Clarence Snyder was without the aid of beverage alcohol. The prospect, frightening as it was, was that of living life without a drink.

When he got out of the sight of his erstwhile comrades, Clarence started to run. He ran as fast as he could in his present and weakened condition. It had taken a lot out of him to stand up to that Irishman. He began to stumble over debris, running as if his life were at stake. Running, thinking if he stopped, he might change his mind. Running to something for what seemed the first and only time in his life rather than running away from something. Somewhere in his consciousness he knew that it felt better to run to, rather than to run from.

The next couple of days were a blur for him. He continued drinking and running. Running and drinking. The drinking was not having the same effect on him that it had in the past. He continued drinking only because he felt that if he stopped, he would surely die. For this was the only way he knew how to stay alive. To stay alive, he had to drink.

He somehow managed to call the doctor seven or eight times during the next few days. He didn't remember when or how. He didn't even remember speaking with the doctor once. Doc Smith told him later on that it was at least seven or eight times.

He had gone to a phone and made all of those toll calls while on the run. He had probably had to break into someone's home to do this since he had used whatever money he was able to panhandle and find, for alcohol.

During one of the calls, the doctor had told Clarence to meet him at Akron City Hospital the next morning. Scared as Clarence was, this time there was no turning back. It was a matter of life and death this time. His own!

Clarence managed to scrape together enough money to make the bus fare back to Akron. He walked to the bus depot. It took hours. It was night time. It was cold and dark, but he had to get there. He bought his ticket for the bus which was leaving just after dawn. And he tried not only to stay awake, but also not to cash in the ticket for a drink. He stood vigilant, awaiting the departure to the unknown. Scared and alone.

When he arrived in Akron, it was in the middle of a blizzard. The temperature was sub-zero, and he didn't have an overcoat. All that he had was just the mismatched old clothing that had been picked up in various Missions and from those poor unfortunates in the "Run" who had succumbed to the cold and the ravages of their drinking. He didn't even have the money for the trolley, and since he couldn't find anyone in the midst of a blizzard to beg the money from, he "decided" to walk. He HAD to get "fixed."

"Akron," Clarence once said, "is the city of seven hills, and all of their hills are up. They don't have any down hills." His sense of determination was tremendous.

He put his head down, buttoned up his jacket as best he could, and put up his frayed collar. There were many times, more often than not, that he felt utterly discouraged. The hills seemed steeper and longer than he had ever remembered. The cold bitter wind was cutting through him like a knife. The blinding snowstorm battered at his body, often driving him backwards. Yet he walked on. His mind was set. His feet, numb from the cold and the frozen snow, were reluctantly placed one in front of the other. One step at a time.

He often fought the little voice that told him that the warmth of a local bar would bring him relief and that he could continue his journey after one little drink, maybe two. All he had to do was warm up on the outside as well as on the inside, the voice said; and he could then continue.

His "Andy Gump" chin pressed close to his sunken chest, determined to make it to the hospital. The hospital where an unknown fate, a "cure" for this devastating, debilitating, drunkenness that had consumed his every thought and every fiber of his being. No matter what, "I was gonna get fixed," Clarence recalled.

He finally made it to the hospital, numb, exhausted, frozen to the bone. His clothing was, by now, stuck to his body. He walked into the lobby of Akron City Hospital, strode up to the reception desk, pounded his fist on the counter, and - while demanding to see Doctor Smith - he passed out.

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