Eilene Zimmerman on Losing Her Ex-Husband to a Secret Drug Addiction

Grow Through It: Family Secrets and Loss & Grief

Eilene Zimmerman, author of the memoir Smacked: A Story of White-Collar Ambition, Addiction, and Tragedy tells the story of losing her ex-husband to complications of a secret IV drug addiction. Peter hadn’t seemed right for some time before he died — he behaved oddly, lost weight and hair, looked unhealthy, and kept losing and forgetting things. Since he was a hard working partner in a prestigious law firm, the last thing Eilene suspected was drugs. After not being able to get in touch with him for two days, she went to his home and discovered his body. It all started to become clearer to her when the medical examiner arrived and she saw the track marks all over Peter’s body.

Eilene got through it by trying to focus on what was right in front of her, rather than thinking too much of the past or the future — which was anxiety-provoking. She relied on family and friends to help her and experienced EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy), which is used in trauma counseling.

She learned that addiction hijacks the brain and affects behavior, and that people you think you know well can keep sides of themselves hidden. She learned that addicts will do whatever they can to get their drugs and feel better, even if it means forsaking their families. And she learned that she was stronger than she thought, and going through this difficult experience gave her confidence that she could handle other challenges.

Her advice to anyone going through something similar is to trust your gut. If you see someone you know well and something doesn’t seem right, it probably isn’t. Be courageous and reach out to let them know you are here for them, whenever they might want to reach back.

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