Sunday, November 1, 2020

Review of Smacked: A Story of White-Collar Ambition, Addiction, and Tragedy by Eilene B. Zimmerman

This review is written by Eugene Kernes

Book can be found in:
Genre = Decision Making

Elaborate Description

This story tells a tragedy that occurs more frequently than considered. Eilene’s ex-husband, Peter, died due to drug related use. Peter had what few have. Wealth, prestige, and family. But that was not enough as his decisions constantly aimed for more. When Peter cheated, they tried to stay together for the sake of the kids, but that did not last long. Over time, Peter’s behavior became more erratic and could not be trusted with planning. Reasoning behind some actions and thoughts became more absurd. Many excuses were consistent with prior behavior so they felt legitimate. Behavior was not the only thing that changed, but also biology as Peter seemed not to have energy and was frequently ill. Many of the behavior and biological issues became understood after Peter’s death, as the issues were consistent with consequences of drug addiction.

Drugs change the way the brain tackles information. The odd reasoning is not odd in the mind of the drug addict as getting the next fix takes priority over everything else. Eilene and the kids did not consider Peter’s behavior due to a drug addiction because of confirmation bias. They saw illness as a side effect of overworking and did not consider the alternatives because it was not aligned with the worldview. After Peter’s death and finding out about the drug addiction, they needed to accept that nothing could be done to have saved Peter. Besides being unlikely to survive even with earlier treatment, Peter would have gone back to taking drugs. A hard lesson to learn is that individuals cannot control everything, but that does not mean they are powerless. Something that cannot be controlled is other people’s choices.

These events triggered a search for reasons why someone who has everything still needed to escape reality using drugs. Drugs are being used by white-collar profession which tend to be well-educated and high-achieving citizens. It says something about a society that uses drugs to escape when success is reached in careers and personal lives. In the case of the law profession, Law school takes students from wanting justice to focusing on winning. Zimmerman finds that the value system of the students changes from internal values of helping others to external values of recognition and money. Lawyers usually start using drugs for prescription, but frequently become as a relief mechanism.

Drugs are used to be better, more productive, more social, and a host of other reasons which could be obtained by self-reflection but there is no time in the professions to self-reflect. As people become more successful, their feedback changes. The more successful someone is, the more is needed to keep up with local social competition. Judging internally based on how others perceive the individual as to show success requires more money to be spent on conspicuous consumption. With a lot of negative feedback, drugs are used to alleviate the thoughts in order to feel better. This is more of a challenge with materialistic people who have a harder time finding fulfillment. The workplace used to be a community in which an individual would find fulfillment, but the workplace has become less personal.

There is a general trend to use more drugs for reasons other than need. If a person identifies a problem, they take a pill to fix it. Pharmacists are more willing and usually prescribe drugs to fix the problems. The bigger problem is that children are given many drugs as well. This creates a dependency on drugs which reduces the ability to cope in the future. Research shows that what is needed is self-acceptance, affiliation and community feeling to relieve distress.

Drugs are a symptom of a much larger cultural problem impacting every class. An important lesson from this book is how to choose. Choices coming from a place of insecurity or social pressure do not have optimal conclusions. Advice of others does carry weight, but so does the individual’s opinion. Intrinsic sources of value facilitate more opportunities to find happiness while external sources of value make it harder to accept the situation even if it is successful.

Book Details

Edition ISBN:  9780525511014
Pages to read:  200
Publication:     2020
Format:            eBook

Ratings out of 5:
Readability     5
Content           4
Overall           4