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?We were sitting in a coffee shop talking, looking at the view of downtown Charlottesville, Virginia. This was ten years ago, and we had both been off alcohol for more than a decade. We were disagree?ing about the best way to stay sober when my mother said, ?I think we should write a book about alcoholism.?
?I sat back. ?We??
??Both of us. Two points of view.?? ?from the Foreword
Double Double is a unique, dual memoir of alcoholism, a disease that affects nearly 45 million Americans each year. People who suffer ...
“We were sitting in a coffee shop talking, looking at the view of downtown Charlottesville, Virginia. This was ten years ago, and we had both been off alcohol for more than a decade. We were disagreeing about the best way to stay sober when my mother said, ‘I think we should write a book about alcoholism.’
“I sat back. ‘We?’
“‘Both of us. Two points of view.’” —from the Foreword
Double Double is a unique, dual memoir of alcoholism, a disease that affects nearly 45 million Americans each year. People who suffer from alcoholism as well as their families and friends know that while it is possible to get sober, there is no one “right” way to do this.
Now, award-winning mystery writer Martha Grimes and her son, Ken Grimes, offer two points of view on their struggles with alcoholism. In alternating chapters, they share their stories—stories of drinking, recovery, relapse, friendship, travel, work, success, and failure.
For Martha, it was about drinking martinis at home, sometimes with friends, sometimes alone. For Ken, it was partying in bars and clubs. Each hit bottom. Martha spent time doing outpatient rehabilitation, once in 1990 and again two years later. Ken began twelve-step recovery. This candid memoir describes how different both the disease and the recovery can look in two different people—even two people who are mother and son.
Double Double is an intensely personal and illuminating book, filled with insights, humor, a little self-deprecation, and a lot of self-evaluation. Anyone who has faced alcoholism will identify with parts of this book. All readers will find these pages revealing, moving, and compelling.
I came of age in the “Just Say Yes” generation of the late 1970s and the early 1980s, between the end of the freewheeling 1960s—an era that my friends and I adored but which wasn’t ours—and the dawning of Nancy Reagan’s “Just Say No” decade of merciless greed and cocaine consumption.
How did I stop? With more than a little help from my friends. By going to meetings in recovery and finding people who are as crazy as I am. I’ve been sober for two decades and I’m still trying to change the saying “I may not be much, but I’m all I think about.”
The literature of recovery says that letting go of the bondage of self is the only way to achieve that “priceless gift of serenity.” Serenity from the screaming voices in my head telling me that I don’t measure up, that I’m inferior, that the other guy is better-looking, that this woman has a better job, that everyone knows more than I do. Serenity is the absence of self, not of constantly thinking about me, and of sometimes actually thinking about others. Stopping drinking was the first step, because drinking is only a symptom of my disease. My fundamental problem is my lack of acceptance of the world as it is, as opposed to the way I demand it to be.
A person I really respect in recovery once said to me, “I don’t know where I got this idea of having a pain-free life. My parents didn’t tell me—not that I listened to anything they said anyway—nor did my friends, teachers, doctor, rabbi, or bosses. Somehow I grew up thinking that I shouldn’t have to experience pain. If I felt any pain at all, anything that bothered me, I drank or smoked it away. I mean, that’s the smart thing to do, right? The problem was that when I stopped drinking and drugging, I was a fourteen-year-old boy trapped in a twenty-five-year-old man’s body because I never matured. I never learned how to deal with the normal disappointments, heartaches, and difficulties of life. The second the going got tough, I got going to the liquor store.”
In the course of this book, you’ll see that my mother’s approach and my approach to sobriety are a little different. She hit the bottom and went to an outpatient rehabilitation center the day before Christmas 1990 and was a fan of that program for many years. Though she doesn’t go to twelve-step meetings, she has come to grips with her alcoholism. We’d agree that anything that gets you to stop drinking and using is the right approach: organized religion, twelve-step meetings, living in a cabin in the woods, being an exercise fanatic. It doesn’t matter. The one thing I kept telling myself as I was destroying my life with beer and pot was that they were all I had left. It’s the supreme irony of addictions that what is killing you masquerades as the answer.
There is a theory in recovery that you stop maturing after you begin drinking excessively, and that was certainly my case. Getting sober at twenty-five was more than lucky; it was a power greater than I, working in my life.
Think getting sober is easier at twenty-five than forty-five?
As a friend of mine in recovery said, “It’s not easy being young in recovery.” Those of us in our twenties were a minority (albeit fast-growing). Plus, I hadn’t done anything in my life to help define me, to give me an identity. No wife, no kids, no career. Nothing.
And the lies the disease tells you! I remember as a child watching the TV adaptation of Sybil with a (very young) Sally Field and wondering what it would be like to have a split personality. There’s a reason why Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is popular: because alcoholism is beyond the yin-yang polarity of good and evil in all of us. From a nice teenage boy I turned into a monster, in a fury at the world for not being the way I wanted it to be. I was going to show them all, and if I couldn’t show them, I was going to kill myself.
When I was new in recovery, I completely ignored the slogan “One Day at a Time” (which I’ve come to believe is the single most important message I’ve learned in my sobriety) because I could simply not imagine not drinking or getting high again.
Here are some of my early questions that proved to me I couldn’t stop drinking:
“What about a business meeting when the client has a glass of wine? Won’t I appear to be insulting him if I don’t have one, too?”
I discovered later that the only people who care if I don’t drink are those with drinking problems themselves. No one cares whether you drink as long as they get to drink themselves.
“What about dating? What if the girl I’m dating has a drink? Won’t she think I’m a loser if I don’t drink?”
Actually, no. If a girl is turned off by your nondrinking, you shouldn’t be dating her. Before I got sober, I had to lie about the volume of my alcohol intake. I used my girlfriends as a control mechanism on my addiction, as monitors, and that’s not a job anyone wants. After I got sober, I followed a very strict rule about dating. On the first date, after the normal chitchat and getting-to-know-you part, I would tell her at dinner I didn’t drink and was sober X number of years. I was being fair to them, but more important, I wouldn’t be tempted to keep it hidden and then want to drink that glass of red wine that was so large, you could wash a Buick in it.
“What, can’t I have a drink on my wedding day?”
I didn’t have a girlfriend. I was convinced the FBI was outside my door, and auditory hallucinations at work were beginning to be a distraction. I wasn’t getting married anytime soon.
“How can I go to a football game without getting high?”
When I told my therapist that I had been stopped by the police in Washington Square Park for attempting to buy marijuana (I was let go without being charged, thank God for the non-Giuliani years in New York City), he asked why I had done something so stupid. “Because my regular guy was out, and I was going to go to the Giants–Eagles game, and I had to have some weed.” When he asked why I had to get high to watch a football game, I had no answer except: “What’s the point of going to a football game if you aren’t stoned?”
I got married thirteen years ago and didn’t have to drink. Now I can have a business meeting, go out to dinner with my wife, and go to a football game, and it simply doesn’t occur to me to alter my state of being with chemicals.
Move over, Moses, because to those who really knew me, that’s a real miracle.