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Double Double

A Dual Memoir of Alcoholism

About The Book

“A thoughtful twist on the recovery memoir” (O, The Oprah Magazine) that explains the different ways bestselling author Martha Grimes and her son, Ken Grimes, recognized and overcame their addictions, now with two new chapters—one from each author.

In this introspective and groundbreaking memoir of addiction, mystery writer Martha Grimes and her son, Ken Grimes, present two different, often intersecting points of view. Chapters alternate between Ken’s and Martha's voices and experiences in 12-step program and outpatient clinics.

Written with honesty, humor, a little self-deprecation, and a lot of self-evaluation, Double Double is “an honest, moving, and readable account of the drinking life and the struggle for recovery. This brave and engaging memoir is a gift” (Kirkus Reviews).





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 fourteenyear-

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.


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 gettingto-

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.




Martinis are my drug of choice, straight up, on the rocks,

vodka, gin, lemon peel, olive, onion, ten to one. Any martini

drinker knows what I’m talking about. Liquid silver, that’s

how my old friend Harry described it.

Not, believe me, that I disdained other drinks—none of them,

as I recall—being partial also to an old-fashioned, a daiquiri, a

whiskey sour. But nothing could win me over like a dry martini,

although one has to acquire that taste.

I was introduced to drugs when there was really only one hand

to shake: alcohol’s. Cocaine, heroin, marijuana, crystal meth: I

was unacquainted with this happy quartet. I was school-age at a

time when you could go to school without getting shot. That was

a long time ago.

It makes no difference for the purposes of this book. Heroin

and cocaine still rank as numbers 1 and 2 (despite the government’s

obsession with crystal meth), the baddest of the bad. Why

split hairs? When it comes to addiction, they’re all bad.

I’m going to avoid the big-ticket health issue, not because it isn’t

important but because it tends to obscure other issues. (When you

set it against an X-ray of a cirrhotic liver, can you really convince

someone that the drink on the bar is necessary?) You know, we all

know, how dangerous addictions are to our health.

Nor will I talk about addiction as a disease. I don’t know

whether it is or isn’t, but I don’t care whether that martini shows

I have a disease or an unquenchable thirst. I think I’ll knock the

“willpower” card off the table. It’s way overplayed.

Most of life is engaged with filling a prescription. We fill up with

whatever works at the moment: food, drink, smoking, shopping.

A few hours at Target isn’t quite as tasty as a few hours in Barneys

New York, but it serves the same purpose. If you’re starving,

it doesn’t matter who the chef is. And what works best is drugs.

After the official drugs like marijuana and cocaine, alcohol (which,

for some reason, gets separated from the others, for we speak of

drugs and alcohol), we’ve got a long list: food (oh, what a drug lies

there!), cigarettes, shopping, television, Internet, gambling, chewing

gum, romantic love—anything that can fill the emptiness for

a few minutes or hours or months, anything that comes from the

something that you don’t have to work at. It allows you to

escape, no questions asked, just go.

The whole world is our drugstore. We must be drawn out of

ourselves by something.

Maybe that’s why Invasion of the Body Snatchers keeps on being

remade. The body snatchers are only after empty husks. Whatever

was inside—call it mind, call it soul—is long gone, as with Gregor

in The Metamorphosis.

In my hometown, there was a movie house, only one theater

and only one screen and one balcony—no longer there, of course.

When I was young, I would look around at the rows of people,

the glow from the screen bathing their faces in ambient light. I

was struck by how innocent the moviegoers looked, unguarded

as children. They were drawn out of themselves; in a sense, they

no longer inhabited themselves. This condition could change at

any second: At the moment when the film fails to grip them, they

become aware that they’re in a theater watching a movie, which

is failing to keep their attention, but suddenly, it can be captured

again. Anything that erases us from time to time, that loosens our

grip, relaxes us, and lets us breathe again. Anything except death,

although at times I think that’s where all of this is headed. We

don’t “breathe easier”; we’re on life support. We’ve got all sorts of

stuff skating into our systems to keep us alive, and we take this as

good, even great, since we’ve left ourselves behind.

For the body snatchers.

We say we can’t have a good time without a drink. Yet I remember

years when I could have a sublimely good time without one.

I was a little kid, or a bigger one, or even an adult. So why did I

tell myself later on that I couldn’t have any fun without a drink in

my hand? A dinner party or any sort of gathering where we stand

around and share small talk? No. You need to have a drink just to

bear it.

A few years ago USA Today did a series of reports on dieting,

a challenge they invited readers to take. One doctor or nutritionist—

who did an incalculable service for all of us dieters—said that

dieting is hard: “You might as well learn to play the violin.”

That’s how hard it is. Willpower be damned. Some USA Today

readers probably thought the good doctor was brutally discouraging.

I thought just the opposite: She told us what we were up

against and why we failed time and again. When you fail in a diet

you feel like a fool or a lout. Surely anybody should be able to turn

down a doughnut. No willpower.
Stopping drinking is like this.
You might as well learn how to play the violin.

About The Authors

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.

Product Details

Raves and Reviews

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, New York Times bestselling author of That’s How I Roll and Blackjack

“Run for the hills! Publishers, editors, writers, wannabe writers, literary hit men—all are ruthlessly skewered in this wonderfully funny novel about the terrifying world of book publishing!”

– Ed McBain, New York Times bestselling author of the 87th Precinct series

“If you thought there were strange, amazing twists and wildly eccentric characters in Martha Grimes’s Richard Jury novels, wait until you see what happens when she takes on the world of publishing. Foul Matter is a sharp, funny, satisfying caper for anyone who has ever wondered what really goes on in this crazy business.”

– Robert Parker, New York Times bestselling author of the Spenser series

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