Captured by Andre James: Recollections of Ted Dibble Veteran Game Player 1962 – 1987
Before we were vogue, a beacon of light for addicts, we were just a group of misfits who were fortunate to wash up on that Santa Monica Beach in the sixties. We survived on coffee, cigarettes, and the goodwill of local grocers. As survivors of overdoses, prison, and a variety of self-inflicted setbacks, all newcomers first identified Synanon as an island of safety. A place to kick your habit and fight for a new start.
But this was no halfway house. The requirements for membership explained in every intake interview, proved to be a rude awakening to all beggars at the door. A con knows a con. So, every potential residence was disabused of any notion that we were a charity, running a flophouse for junkies. The price of admission was the commitment to creating clean man days. “Pull your weight. Stay clean. Or, leave and don’t let the door hit you in the ass.”
There was a core group that locked arms with Dederich to make this idea a reality. I joined Reid Kimball, Candy Latson, Jack, and Terry Hurst, Oscar and Jeanie Camano, Franky Lago, Ray Dibble, and a few others in a boss contract to keep our ragtag group on the right track. One day at a time.
One vehicle that kept this band of brothers and sisters on track was the game.
In those days the game was not a public spectacle. You gathered for two hours in a circle of chairs with a dozen people to pursue a line of no line. Indict and defend. Equal opportunity verbal abuse. In the game, you were always wrong. You could swear, lie, exaggerate and attempt to humiliate anyone. Just no violence or threat of violence.
In addition to verbal wrestling, the game provided an outlet for frustration, pouting, self-pity and disappointment. From time to time it became a confessional.
Leaders emerged as black-belt gamers. They, like me, became consistently effective at using humor, ridicule and self-deprecation for exposing the faulty logic and ridiculous, self-destructive behavior exhibited by struggling newcomers. At our best, we practiced a form of verbal jujitsu that left fools lying flat on their backs, laughing, crying or both. First games for most newcomers were a shocking, trial-by-fire that served as a right-of-passage into our community.
After a rough session, a humiliated newbie spotted wandering toward the coffee earn would be intercepted by a veteran. He would be invited to join the vets for coffee and light-hearted conversation. “You survived that game. Welcome to the club.”
That was a practice of love I had never seen. It was a practice I embraced throughout my 25-year Synanon career.
To read more stories by Andre James go to https://www.tota.world/profile/andrejames
Categories: The Early Days