Clarence H. Snyder - Founded the 1st Cleveland, Ohio Group Named 'Alcoholics Anonymous'

The Year

1939

May

Clarence H. Snyder - Founded the 1st Cleveland, Ohio Group Named 'Alcoholics Anonymous'

 Clarence S. a member of the Oxford Group in Akron, Ohio, had his last drink on February 11, 1938 according to an article he wrote for the A.A. Grapevine November 1968 issue.

An Offshoot — And New Name — in Cleveland

  In 1939, fifteen months later he founded and organized an offshoot of the Oxford Group that was only open to alcoholics and their family members and became the first Cleveland group. The group adopts the name of the Big Book mimeographs – “Alcoholics Anonymous”. The first Alcoholics Anonymous meeting is held in May 1939 in the home of Al G. (also known as Abby G.), a patent lawyer.

Postcard of Cleveland, Ohio

 Clarence later called himself the founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, basing his claim on his being the first to use the name for a group. Which he probably was. But the fact is, the book Alcoholics Anonymous was already off the press, and the name had been used a year earlier to refer to the Fellowship as a whole.
 Clarence Snyder, Founder of AA in Cleveland
 In the beginning, that is, in 1939, there were two Alcoholics Anonymous. Alcoholics Anonymous the book, and Alcoholics Anonymous the fellowship of the original 100 members. There was no difference in the approach to sobriety between them.

 Shortly after the publication of the volume, Alcoholics Anonymous (1939), a.k.a “The Big Book”, a third fellowship develops in Cleveland, Ohio (1940). This new fellowship is the first to use the Big Book as a part of their regular practice. A.A. pioneer, Clarence H. Snyder who was taken through the steps by Dr. Bob, modeled a style of one-on-one sponsorship in which a member of the fellowship experienced in the Twelve Step program would take a newcomer, under his wing, help him adjust to sobriety, and coach him through the Twelve Steps. The sponsor and newcomer would meet and work their way through the Big Book together, page by page.

 Cleveland sponsors emphasized the Oxford Group’s Four Absolutes (Honesty, Purity, Unselfishness, Love) and the importance of working with other alcoholics. Due to a sudden swell in membership, newcomers were often put to work taking other newcomers (both one-on-one and beginners classes) through the book before they have even finished the Steps themselves. Due to the same swell in membership, Cleveland’s Big Book style sponsorship quickly becomes the most common form of AA.

 Bill Wilson was constantly amazed at the growth and apparent success that Cleveland was having in sobering up alcoholics. He visited there every time that he went to Ohio. Bill later wrote in A.A. Comes of Age:
 "Yes, Cleveland's results were of the best. Their results were in fact so good, and A.A.'s membership elsewhere was so small, that many a Clevelander really thought A.A.'s membership had started there in the first place. The Cleveland pioneers had proved three essential things: the value of personal sponsorship; the worth of the A.A.'s Big Book in indoctrinating newcomers, and finally the tremendous fact that A.A., when the word really got around, could now soundly grow to great size." — Bill W., AA Co-Founder
 Clarence believed the difference between New York and Mid-West A.A. was the approach to sobriety. In Ohio the approach was, “Trust God, Clean House, and Help Others.” Clarence felt that the approach in New York was, “Don’t Drink and Go To Meetings”.

 Emphasis on spirituality was what had made Ohio A.A. so successful, according to Clarence. He noticed that New York A.A. had but a few members who were maintaining any sort of abstinence from alcohol, and that most Ohio members had achieved what was to become permanent sobriety and had numerous, strong A.A. meetings in evidence.

 Moreover, Clarence thought that if the primary purpose of A.A. were only to stop drinking and, in order to maintain that abstinence, only go to meetings, A.A. was doomed to failure.

 Clarence remembered Dr. Bob once saying:

 "There is an easy way and a hard way to recovery from alcoholism. The hard way is by just going to meetings.”

  Clarence stated that nowhere in the Steps of A.A. does it say one has to stop drinking. He was speaking of the A.A. statement that the only REQUIREMENT for membership is “a desire to stop drinking.”

  If an A.A. member puts the steps into their lives, beginning with the first three steps, they have admitted that they are powerless over alcohol, they could not manage their own lives, and that they had made a decision to turn their lives and their will over to the care of God. They were no longer in charge. A Power Greater than them self had been asked to take over.

  If an A.A. member is constantly, on a daily basis, fighting taking a drink, (i.e. Just for today I will not take a drink.) there is no one in charge but the A.A. member. There is no power greater than oneself. The A.A. book states:

 And we have ceased fighting anything or anyone – even alcohol. pg. 84 A.A. 4th edition


 Mid-West A.A. puts the reliance on God, a Higher Power, and not the A.A. meetings or other A.A. members. New York places reliance on a human power. The A.A. book clearly states:

 That probably no human power could have relieved our alcoholism. pg. 60 A.A. 4th edition

 Bill Wilson made numerous trips to Ohio to try and find out what they had that worked so well. He spoke with Clarence and with Dr. Bob and attended meetings. He tried to bring back the program of recovery as it was in Ohio to the New York members, but they would not assimilate the spirituality into their brand of A.A.
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