A journalist pieces together the mysteries surrounding her ex-husband’s unexpected death from drug abuse 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.
“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. A rare combination of journalistic rigor, personal courage and writerly grace, 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

“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

“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