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Falling Phoenix

A survivor of a cult-based “Therapeutic Community” coming to terms with her past and telling the whole story.

Here’s the story…Phoenix House/Synanon/Navy

Strange Roots Synanon, also known as The Church of Synanon was a cult started by Charles “Chuck” Dederich in 1958 when he developed the belief that Alcoholics Anonymous wasn’t able to adequately treat those addicted to drugs. Chuck had attended Alcoholics Anonymous daily for a period of time, but as he became more popular in…

From Synanon to Hare Krishnas?

While I was at Phoenix House Descanso (San Diego) from ‘92 to ‘94, they began allowing “outside mentors” to come and chat and befriend and talk to us. The most memorable was the group of Hare Krishnas that would come up weekly and chat with us, in groups and individually. One young Hare Krishna, whom…

The Game

You can read about my first experience with an encounter group and a description of what Synanon and Phoenix House’s “The Game” is like from inside the circle in a previous blog post, but I’m going to share some receipts today, too. These are pages from the Phoenix House Handbook as it stood in 1992.…

How a Queen Gets Duped

I remember reading it for the first time and I had to read it repeatedly to be sure that I was understanding what I saw accurately:In 2010, Beyoncé donated her entire salary (approximately $4mil) from Cadillac Records to Phoenix House to open a Cosmetology Center in Brooklyn, and pledged to continue to donate $100,000 annually.…

Trafficked

When we think of human trafficking, we often think only of the type people are dramatically kidnapped for the purposes of forcing into sex work. If we’re honest. Our unwillingness to see or call out ALL types of trafficking as simply such is why it continues.Trafficking and body/benefits/patient brokering is incredibly rampant in the substance…

Corruption Runs Deep

It becomes obvious that there are some shady inner workings that have enabled Phoenix House to stay in business when you take into account that they’ve been charged repeatedly with a misappropriation of funds with the earliest reporting I can find being 1970. That’s five years before I was even born. The most recent is…

Blind Faith

One of the “Basic Concepts” at Phoenix House was “Blind Faith”. This really meant that we weren’t to question the authority of completely unqualified, unlicensed counselors. We weren’t to question the daily traumas, abuses, manipulations and neglect. Here is a page from the Phoenix House handbook. “Blind Faith”: Putting your feelings aside and trusting from…

Trauma Is Patient And Doesn’t Forget

My experience of trauma, whether from my time in a “therapeutic community” or from other situations, is that it’s patient, has a long memory and there’s no way to outrun it. Oh sure, I tried to do just that in so many different ways throughout the years. You just can’t. Not really. When I was…

I recently spoke with someone who was a resident of an adolescent Phoenix House facility within the past five-ish years. They gave permission for me to publish the recollections they recounted to me under the condition of anonymity and omission of certain identifying details. Here’s their recollection of their time at Phoenix House: I was…

Current Affairs From A Survivor’s View

Watching the Presidential Debate last night, I was overwhelmed by a familiar feeling. Helplessness. If I had to sum it up, that’s the best word I can think of to describe it in a nutshell. It’s been especially “triggering” for a survivor of institutional abuse in a high control group to witness people we were…

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