We sent copies of Eilene Zimmerman’s important new book, “Smacked: A Story of White Collar Ambition, Addiction and Tragedy,” to our White Collar Support Group members who are currently in prison, and asked them to write reviews to post on prisonist.org. Below is Basia Skudrzyk’s thoughtful review from inside the Greenville Federal Prison Camp in Illinois where she is serving time for a white collar crime.  Your comments are invited, link here.  On May 1st, Eilene will be our guest on the Criminal Justice Insider Podcast with Babz Rawls Ivy & Jeff Grant.


Dear Jeff,

WOW!  I read “Smacked” and I’m very grateful to you for sharing this book.  I feel like someone smacked me in the face and truly opened my eyes even more!  We all need that wake up call.  If only we can smack more people to get out of their shells.  This book gave me more dots to connect in my own self-exploration and that of our society.  I have to say that I feel lucky having more than 38 minutes of face time with people presently.  Having that time allows me to see; despite its own challenges.  

I can only imagine how many chords it hit in your heart as you were able to associate with the demands and pressures of “Big Law.”  I’m sure you knew exactly what Peter was going through, thinking, feeling, wanting to escape and yet still wanting to win and control a power that was much greater than yourself.  I know I did.  I like how the book first talks about how our brain tends to focus on the truths we need to receive in order to support our thinking.  This results in narrow-minded thinking.  This is how majority of humans think in order to win a case and stay competitive within their own field of thinking.  I think this book not only applies to law, but to the fields of healthcare, finance and technology – areas that require undivided attention, constant dopamine like outcomes, and the “need” to always out perform and be the best.  How do we breathe when there is no oxygen left?  You do whatever it takes to please your boss and make the unimaginable happen.  That was my high.  I may have not had an opioid addiction, but the addiction of wanting a connection and wanting to feel accepted by working non-stop despite the risks I took to achieve those goals sounded all too familiar when reading the book.  

What do you do when you get that feeling when something is wrong?  Sometime you suppress the instinct, divert or blame yourself for ideas and feelings that absolutely could not be possible.  Anything is possible.  Peter is a prime example.  Peter, you and I – are perfect examples.  People fight addiction and high stress environments all the time.  There is no bias.  Our society is leaning towards a virtual reality of trying to become high-functioning addict super-hero figures, hiding our voids and doing whatever it takes to stay in the top seat.  I never thought of it this way, but how many attorneys, prosecutors and judges are in the same spot we are.  They are the decision makers and do whatever it takes to stay within their narrow lane. How can two disconnections come together to provide a healthy outcome?  It’s interesting how a first year law student has different ideals and values by the time they come out of law school.  Again, the same type of application can be used in the schools of business and science.    

Eilene does a remarkable job describing her vulnerability and role of once being married to an addict, parenting with an addict, but having no idea what that struggle really meant.  How that struggle resulted in a lot of pain to her children, herself, the doubts she herself developed; yet, society seems to continue with this ever-growing epidemic.  She shares her intimate story and that of her children – what is it like to live with an addict and not know it?  How could they have prevented it?  Could they?  The “what if” factor that really doesn’t do us any good after the disaster is done.  However, we can still ask “what if” we start paying attention to such patterns and stories to change the narrative.  What if Peter had a more well-balanced life?  What if health examinations were administered on the job or prior to cases in the courtroom?  What if Peter was not pinned as “the bad guy who was selfish and threw himself into drugs?”  What if he was able to actually digest and process life vs suppressing it with drugs to compensate for the over-stimulation in his brain that was not possible to compete with the demands of his coercive environment?  What if we opened our eyes and looked at Peter from a 360 degree perspective and truly looked at the larger problem that is right in front of our eyes?  A man who tried to survive in a chaotic world, a toxic work environment, disruption, corruption, demands and lack of meaningful connection.  This book opens up the thought process to think and look at what’s in front of us.  This is not only an opioid crisis, but a crisis of disconnection, misunderstanding; a mass-incarceration of humanity that is coping with over-stimulation and no platform to allow the human body to breathe and thrive in a more well-balanced world.  Do you really think 38 minutes of live face-time makes a well-rounded person?  That’s so disheartening to read, but it’s the truth.  As a society, we ignore these truths because we are too entrenched into staring into our screens by being stimulated into the need of wanting more.  We turn to escapes because the “real world” is difficult to life.  What we don’t realize until everything is removed from us is that happiness lies right within us.  We have to have the time to feel and realize this.  Our magic pill is real, live and still time with no interruptions to see, truly see what’s within us.

This book should be shared with 1st year law students and students of all professions – they are our future.  They are the ones who will be able to make an impact and to see what the current generation is not willing to explore.  If our society continues to with anti-social, erratic and disconnected behavior, what kind of life are we building for future generations that are becoming more reliant upon drugs?  Eilene and her family struggled with the fact that they were not able to see the problem right in front of their face.  She had many of the puzzle pieces, but the pieces that were right in front of her, did not come into full view until it was too late.  This book tells us a story of a life that was successful.  Peter loved his family dearly, but he did not know how to connect based on the demands of life that were around him.  He escaped into a world that was darker and one he could not control.  This book reframes the necessary change that needs to be looked at in regards to mental health, addiction and mass-incarceration.  It time we stop dismissing the evidence that doesn’t fit within societal norms.  Eilene’s strong research presents a story that many are battling.  It’s a story that can save many lives and one that can create awareness to families, corporations and systems.  Sometimes you cannot repair the damage that’s been done, but by reading this book one can become enlightened of the full story behind the actions of a human who needed help reconnecting to human life. 

Like Lao-Tzu once wrote, “The supreme goodness is like water.  It benefits all things without contention.”  Eilene encourages us to be open to change and to live like water – formless, shapeless and alive.  Life is not easy, but it’s certainly real.  


Big hugs and with extreme gratitude to you and Eilene,


smacked a book review from inside prison white collar support group