Oral Histories

Interview of Lena Lindsey Stern

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
Stern, Lena Lindsey
Persons Present:
Stern and Montgomery.
Supporting Documents:
Records relating to the interview are located in the office of the UCLA Library's Center for Oral History Research.
2 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.
Family background—Early schooling—Early use of drugs—Pregnancy and prison experience—Entering Synanon—Establishing House No. 2—Encounters with white people in California—Early experiences at Synanon—Move to Wuthering Heights—Newcomers’ arrival in Detroit—Splitting from Synanon—Rehabilitation work after Synanon—Lessons learned.
Arrival at Synanon as a child—Early memories of Synanon—Move to Balboa House in San Diego—Childhood chaos and survival tactics—Move to Detroit and experiences there—Return to California—Integrating into Synanon as a child—Move to Tomales group—Marriage while with Badger group—Questioning sexual orientation and experimentation—Leaving Synanon—Reunion of 1989—Reflections.