Double Double: A Dual Memoir of Alcoholism

Overview

“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 ...

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Overview

“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.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
With its title taken from a line spoken by the three witches in Macbeth, this prickly, wildly uneven memoir is ostensibly about years of excessive drinking by the celebrated mystery author and her son. In alternate sections, the mother-son team describe their respective struggles with alcohol. Yet while Martha’s segments reveal a truly thoughtful artist wrestling with the internal, nearly metaphysical contradictions posed by drinking, her son, Ken—who attended his mother’s alma mater, the University of Iowa, and then hooked into PR jobs in publishing—comes off as arrogant and entitled, drinking and smoking to anesthetize the sense that he “never had enough.” Ken attended a 12-step AA program by his mid-20s, while mother Martha preferred detox at the Kolmac Clinic, among others. They have been clean for at least a few decades and their memories of the big peaks and troughs on alcohol are a little hazy. Ken’s sections are grounded in ham-fisted blowouts in bars and football games; while Martha’s are subtly calibrated depictions that suggest she will never be as seduced as she had been by the bottle. In the end, mother Martha simply asks why her son went “looking for safety in booze.” Despite several “conversations” that bring the two voices together, the metaphysical and the logistical 12-step are grating in this ill-focused work. (June)
From the Publisher
Double Double could have been titled Double-Barreled—it hits like a .12 gauge sawed-off at close range. The brutal illumination of a dual descent into alcoholism is also a penetrating insight: the lives of a mother and son run parallel, becoming intertwined only when each found their own, very separate, way out. This is no ‘self-help’ book—it packs the narrative force of a Martha Grimes novel . . . and perfectly illustrates how the finest fiction is created only when its foundational basis is truth.”
Andrew Vachss
Double Double could have been titled Double-Barreled—it hits like a .12 gauge sawed-off at close range. The brutal illumination of a dual descent into alcoholism is also a penetrating insight: the lives of a mother and son run parallel, becoming intertwined only when each found their own, very separate, way out. This is no ‘self-help’ book—it packs the narrative force of a Martha Grimes novel . . . and perfectly illustrates how the finest fiction is created only when its foundational basis is truth.”
Kirkus Reviews
A leading American mystery writer and her son recall their lives as alcoholics and their diverse paths to sobriety. Martha Grimes (Fadeaway Girl, 2011, etc.), winner of the 2012 Mystery Writers of America Grandmaster Award, was drinking four to five strong martinis nightly when she hit bottom and entered an outpatient rehab for two years of weekly meetings. Her son Ken, a book publicist, grew up drinking and partying in the 1970s; used speed, cocaine and other drugs, finally settling on marijuana and beer; and then began "a process of redemption" at a sober beach house and in 12-step meetings. In alternating chapters, the authors craft an honest, moving and readable account of the drinking life and the struggle for recovery. While their informative book considers the many sources of help for alcoholics (AA, therapy, rehab, etc.), their main mother-son message, in Martha's words, is "You can stop only by stopping." Moreover: "Stopping is hard. You might as well learn how to play the violin." Neither her mother nor father was a drinker, writes Martha, but Mrs. D., her mother's business partner in a summer hotel, was an angry alcoholic, and Martha would drink with her often in a back office. At the age of 30, Martha bought a bottle of sherry and hid it in a closet. She never drank while writing her more than 30 mysteries. Nor was she aware of Ken's drinking and drugging as he grew up. The latest of four generations of alcoholic men in his family, Ken offers vivid glimpses of his experiences: spending tuition money on drugs, carousing in British pubs, bad-mouthing Donald Trump at a book party, and finally learning life-changing lessons from Hollywood producer, author and cocaine-user Julia Phillips. This brave and engaging memoir is a gift to readers struggling with drinking problems.
Library Journal
Mystery Writers of America grandmaster Grimes and her son, who works in public relations, here join forces on a dual memoir about their struggles with alcoholism. As they consider drinking, recovery, relapse, success, and failure, they highlight how individual the struggle is; each person combats his or her demons in a specific way
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781476724089
  • Publisher: Scribner
  • Publication date: 6/4/2013
  • Pages: 240
  • Sales rank: 340,754
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Martha  Grimes

Bestselling author Martha Grimes is the author of more than thirty books, including twenty-two Richard Jury mysteries. She is also the author of Double Double, a dual memoir of alcoholism written with her son. The winner of the 2012 Mystery Writers of America Grandmaster Award, Grimes lives in Bethesda, Maryland.

Ken Grimes works in the public relations industry and lives with his wife and children in suburban Maryland.

Biography

"No, I'm not English, but nothing quickens my imagination more than a fog-bound moor, windy heath, river mist in an old fishing village, and the names of British pubs like The Stargazey," Martha Grimes has written, and it's this quirk of hers that has made her one of the best loved modern practitioners of the venerable whodunit.

All of the titles in Grimes's bestselling Richard Jury series are taken from actual pubs, and all of them feature said pub in some fashion. "I can imagine the end of British hope and glory, but not the end of the British pub," she explains. So, too, it is hard to imagine the end of these deft, witty mysteries, begun in 1981 with The Man with a Load of Mischief, featuring a lugubrious Scotland Yard superintendent (Jury) and his art-collecting sidekick (Melrose Plant).

Grimes has a particular talent for combining heavy gloom with an unmistakable humor that's as subtle and dry as a soda cracker – a good thing, since the Jury casebook tends to be dark, twisted, and rather gruesome. But she always infuses her characters with human motivations and is careful to set up a chain of clues that ultimately discloses them. In addition, she's been known to thread in an unlikely theme here and there – NFL football, poetry references, animal rights, even hormone replacement therapy.

It's clear that Grimes likes to stretch her legs a bit, bringing Jury and his eccentric friends Stateside for a few cases and occasionally foraying beyond the series with novellas, standalones, and some interconnected literary fiction featuring teenage heroines. No doubt these changes of pace help keep the author's skills sharp and honed and ensure for her a wider and more growing readership.

Good To Know

Unlike many mystery writers, Grimes does not outline her plots ahead of time or even profess to know where they are headed when she begins writing. "I am not overly concerned with plot as such," she explains on her web site. "Obviously, if you start with a chapter such as the one above and intend the story to proceed from it, you could write yourself into a corner. I always do. In The Case Has Altered, I didn't know until I was nearly finished with it who had killed these women or why."

Grimes's father was city solicitor of Pittsburgh, and her mother owned a hotel in western Maryland. As a girl, she spent half her time in Pittsburgh and the other half at her mother's hotel in a little town called Mountain Lake Park.

Although her western Maryland-set series that began with The End of the Pier has earned its own fans, there's no denying that for most Grimes readers, it's all about Jury. If she needed a reminder of this, she got one in the loads of hate mail she received for abandoning Richard Jury to write Pier.

Grimes has taught creative writing at various colleges, including the small Maryland community school Montgomery College and the more prestigious Johns Hopkins University. Comparing the two in a Washington Post interview, the mordant Grimes noted of JHU, "Not one pompous ass in the whole program ... The pompous asses are at Montgomery College."

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    1. Hometown:
      Washington, DC and Santa Fe, NM
    1. Date of Birth:
      May 2, 1931
    2. Place of Birth:
      Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
    1. Education:
      B.A., M.A., University of Maryland
    2. Website:

Read an Excerpt

Double Double


  • IF THE WITCHES HAD wanted to double Macbeth’s troubles, their elaborate recipe of eye of newt and toe of frog should have included a pint of Guinness, a quart of vodka, a carton of Marlboro cigarettes, and a pound of marijuana. Or a very, very dry double martini.

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.

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