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.
About the Author
Eilene Zimmerman has been a journalist for three decades, covering business, technology, and social issues for a wide array of national magazines and newspapers. She was a columnist for The New York Times Sunday Business section for six years, and since 2004 has been a regular contributor to the newspaper. In 2017, Zimmerman also began pursuing a master’s degree in social work. She lives in New York City.
“Poignant . . . An engrossing narrative laden with elements of pathos and mystery.”—The Boston Globe
“Journalist Eilene Zimmerman’s up-close-and-personal look at the cost of addiction is among the timeliest and most relevant books of the new year. Smacked is an unvarnished and wrenching exploration of opioid abuse in a wealthy, white-collar world that resonates across classes and cultures.”—Newsweek
“In this brave and suspenseful memoir, Eilene Zimmerman traces a deeply personal family story while illuminating urgent and troubling social issues. Smacked is an exquisite examination of the repercussions of addiction, as well as the influence of white-collar money and ambition, upon a family. . . . A profoundly absorbing and important book.”—Adrienne Brodeur, author of Wild Game
“Heart-wrenching . . . a chronicle of trying to make sense of a loved one’s struggles with [addiction].”—The New York Times Book Review
“A searing and extraordinary memoir, Smacked peers into the life of the white collar addict, showing us how the enslavement to not just drugs, but wealth and success, in this country can ruin marriages and families. Zimmerman achieves not just gorgeous prose and a suspenseful and engrossing story, but also more compassion and insight than I have encountered for this subject. Smacked is unputdownable and addictive, in the best way possible.”—Claire Bidwell Smith, author of The Rules of Inheritance
“Smacked is a story that will both break your heart and, in the wake of loss, make you think long and hard about what it means to have ‘everything.’ In lucid, precise prose and with a crushing honesty, Eilene Zimmerman traces the emotional and social forces that make it possible for one man, ostensibly on top of the world, to be visibly killing himself and for no one to recognize his fall.”—Heather Harpham, author of Happiness: The Crooked Little Road to Semi-Ever After
“Moving and intimate . . . Zimmerman’s wrenching story and her extensive research into the hidden crisis of white-collar drug addiction will resonate with many readers.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Searing . . . Intimate and disturbing, the narrative chronicles the tragic impact of drug addiction on a family and lays bare truths about a success-at-all-costs capitalist society in which many social relationships are becoming fractured. A timely reading experience in these hectic times.”—Kirkus Reviews
“In Zimmerman’s skillful hands, the compelling narrative unfolds seamlessly and convincingly. . . . Zimmerman’s brutally honest account identifies several telltale signs [of addiction] that, in hindsight, seem painfully obvious. They help underscore her revelation that addiction knows no demographic barriers.”—Booklist (starred review)