Mike Gimbel: Ex-Synanon Member is Now a Host, Producer, and Speaker

Although Synanon did start as an incredible drug rehabilitation facility in 1958, it soon evolved into a new religious movement/cult headed by founder Charles “Chuck” Dederich himself. This has even been evidenced in HBO’s ‘The Synanon Fix,’ a documentary series incorporating not just archival footage but also exclusive interviews to really explore its overall rise and fall. Amongst those to thus be featured in this original is actually Mike Gimbel — an extreme drug addict turned devoted Synanon member before he ultimately decided to depart in the 1970s.

Who is Mike Gimbel?

Despite the fact Mike admittedly hails from a wonderful, loving family in Baltimore, Maryland, everything changed for him in the eighth grade as they relocated to a socially driven suburb. That’s because he suddenly found himself drinking alcohol to feel accepted, which soon led him to experiment with substances like “marijuana, pills, and anything else I could get my hands on.” Then came his introduction to heroin in the summer following his junior year at high school — something that had him hooked almost immediately to such an extent he needed it 24/7.

According to Mike’s own accounts, he hence often missed classes in his final year because he felt withdrawal symptoms coming on at around 10 am every day, driving him deeper into a mess. After all, he began cutting school to find ways to secure appropriate funds so that he could run into the city to get his fix — nevertheless, he managed to graduate from Milford Mill High School. Though little did he or his loved ones know that his drug use would only accelerate as time passed, resulting in him being arrested several times before he eventually ripped off a local drug gang.

“When times were rough, I would take my needle and scrape it inside [the synringe], thinking there was a little dope in there,” Mike conceded in the aforementioned original. “When you’re high or on heroin, it’s a mixture of being conscious and unconscious. It’s somewhere in the middle, which is a very mellow, warm feeling that you try to reach.” Therefore, it wasn’t until his family wholly intervened that his spiraling halted — the initial physiatrist sessions, rabbi visits, as well as mental hospital admissions didn’t help, what helped was a California-based program his drummer father had heard of from his fellow once-similarly struggling musicians.

It was on October 1, 1972, that Mike embraced recovery upon arriving at the Santa Monica, California facility of Synanon, only for its methods plus his own determination to actually work. So, of course, he subsequently chose to dedicate himself to this organization in the hopes of helping others too, starting by landing a fulfilling plus stable position at its treatment center. This is where he also ended up coming across his future wife, arguably the love of his life, Stephanie — she was a chef, and they’d developed a deep friendship once he began helping out.

The truth is Mike and Stephanie were just friends when a senior member suggested they tie the knot, leading to their marriage and them falling head over heels in love just a short while later. As per the former’s narrative, this was the first relationship for them both wherein drugs were not involved, making them realize they could have a beautiful bond full of respect plus understanding. But alas, things changed in the late 1970s as Chuck evolved this institution into a cult with an order of no children prior to also announcing wife-switches, so Mike got a vasectomy, Stephanie endured an abortion, and then they were split.

“Stephanie and I – – we were in love; there was no question about it,” Mike candidly said in the docuseries at one point. “We were best friends. She was a really great girl. But they said to change partners, and we changed partners. We did it. If we were in a normal state of mind, we would sit there as normal people and say, ‘What are we doing here? What’s – – this is crazy.’ But we didn’t have those conversations, and that’s how we survived in Synanon.” He thus ended up with another admittedly beautiful woman, yet he simply couldn’t go forth with her no matter how hard he tried, so he decided to leave Synanon/Synanon Church for good.

Where is Mike Gimbel Now?

“In the middle of the night, at 3 or 4 in the morning, [members] come in, get me, and put me in the back of a pickup truck,” Mike revealed in the production. “They drove me to San Francisco. They dumped me out in the middle of the street with just the clothes on my back, no money or anything, and that was it. I was out of Synanon.” Despite this, he managed to remain sober and even got back on his feet with the help of a sound support system in the form of his caring, loving family as well as well-wishers turned friends. It’s hence not shocking his sole guilt in life is the fact he doesn’t and can never have a brood of his own — due to everything Synanon did for him in terms of his sobriety plus brief happiness with Stephanie, he can never just despise its entire operation.

Coming to Mike’s current standing, it appears as if following 24 years as a Drug Czar in Baltimore County, Maryland, where he helped people by sharing his story, he’s now based in Bradenton, Florida. Therefore, it’s from here that he serves as an entrepreneur, host, producer, as well as a public figure at the moment, all the while also doing his best to make time for personal connections.

Mike has actually been sober for over 51 years as of writing, so of course, he is more than qualified to have been behind the syndicated drug-based educational television show ‘Straight Talk’ for the past three decades. Moreover, it’s imperative to note he even has his own business — he’s the president and CEO of Mike Gimbel Associates (a consultancy affiliated with an Addiction Recovery Center), an experienced educator-trainer in substance abuse programs for the NCAA, plus a proud marathon runner.

Read More: Jady Dederich Montgomery: Where is Chuck Dederich’s Daughter Now?