Oral Histories

Interview of Ted Dibble

Associated with Synanon drug rehabilitation program.
Synanon Foundation Oral Histories
Science, Medicine, and Technology
Community History
Biographical Note:
Associated with Synanon drug rehabilitation program.
Montgomery, Cecilia Dederich
Dibble, Ted
Persons Present:
Dibble, Montgomery, and Andre James.
Place Conducted:
Dibble's home in Novato, California.
Supporting Documents:
Records relating to the interview are located in the office of the UCLA Library's Center for Oral History Research.
5 hrs.
Series Statement:
This series of interviews looks back on Synanon, the first self-help residential community for drug rehabilitation in the United States, which was founded in Venice, California in 1959 and continued through the early 1990s. In the interviews the former residents speak from their own experience in describing many aspects of the organization and community as it evolved beyond its original purpose. They discuss Synanon’s beginnings, early development, growth, and eventual decline, as well as the organization’s use of a cathartic brand of verbal group encounter known as The Game.The original interviews in the series were conducted in the spring of 1962 by Oral History Program staff member Elizabeth Dixon at Synanon House in Santa Monica and at one of the residences in Venice. Since it was impracticable to record each and every member of the organization, the project at least attempted to interview as broad a sampling of individuals as possible— male and female, old and young. Originally the intention was to conduct follow-up interviews at periodic intervals of the people whose stories had been recorded, but that never happened.Nearly half a century after the original interviews were done, Jady Dederich Montgomery, the daughter of Synanon's founder, Charles Dederich, conducted additional interviews with former members of Synanon. She donated those interviews to the Center for Oral History Research in 2012, and they were then added to this collection.
Early life and background—Career at Synanon—The Game—Reason for joining—Interactions with and reflections on Charles Dederich—Important administrative decisions made by Dederich—Kicking out David Deitch—Marriage, children, and divorce—Becoming an “agent” in San Diego—General meetings.
Comparisons between Synanon and Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)—The Game—The walk after thirty days—Emphasis on proper moral conduct.
Agent in San Diego—“Wizard School” attendance and challenging assumptions—Duties as a “wizard” and move to Synanon Industries—Advances to executive vice president—“The Trips”—The Game—Organizing fundraising drive—Dederich’s character changes over time—Reflections.
Roles and duties as wizard—Work performed at Synanon Industries—Synanon culture—“The Trips”—The second “Game”—Personal spiritual experience—Organizing fundraising drive—Directing various Synanon locations—Lessons learned from Dederich—Speaking to failures at Synanon.
Boot camp and discipline—Additions to the newcomer program—Supply department work—“The Wire” radio show—Fear of leaving Synanon—Problematic methods and political leanings at the foundation—Criminal acts—Life after Synanon—Current self-assessment.