A journalist pieces together the mysteries surrounding her ex-husband’s descent into drug addiction while trying to rebuild a life for her family, taking readers on an intimate journey into the world of white-collar drug abuse.
“A rare combination of journalistic rigor, personal courage, and writerly grace.”—Bill Clegg, author of Portrait of an Addict as a Young Man
Something was wrong with Peter. Eilene Zimmerman noticed that her ex-husband looked thin, seemed distracted, and was frequently absent from activities with their children. She thought he looked sick and needed to see a doctor, and indeed, he told her he had been diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder. Yet in many ways, Peter seemed to have it all: a beautiful house by the beach, expensive cars, and other luxuries that came with an affluent life. Eilene assumed his odd behavior was due to stress and overwork—he was a senior partner at a prominent law firm and had been working more than sixty hours a week for the last twenty years.
Although they were divorced, Eilene and Peter had been partners and friends for decades, so when she and her children were unable to reach Peter for several days, Eilene went to his house to see if he was OK.
So begins Smacked, a brilliant and moving memoir of Eilene’s shocking discovery, one that sets her on a journey to find out how a man she knew for nearly thirty years became a drug addict, hiding it so well that neither she nor anyone else in his life suspected what was happening. Eilene discovers that Peter led a secret life, one that started with pills and ended with opioids, cocaine, and methamphetamine. He was also addicted to work; the last call Peter ever made was to dial in to a conference call.
Eilene is determined to learn all she can about Peter’s hidden life, and also about drug addiction among ambitious, high-achieving professionals like him. Through extensive research and interviews, she presents a picture of drug dependence today in that moneyed, upwardly mobile world. She also embarks on a journey to re-create her life in the wake of loss, both of the person—and the relationship—that profoundly defined the woman she had become.
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“A powerful and important contribution to the literature of addiction and its impact on individuals and families, Eilene Zimmerman’s Smacked tells the story of her ex-husband’s secret, spiraling addiction. Zimmerman’s account illuminates, as David Sheff’s Beautiful Boy did, that addiction is not a choice, not a moral failing, and not a problem that any amount of love, intelligence, talent or success can shield or save you from. A shattering story of terrible loss, learning, and survival, this is memoir at its most engrossing and most useful.”
Bill Clegg, author of Portrait of an Addict as a Young Man