Category Archives: addiction

"Grippers" FINAL EPISODE (how to get homeless without even trying)

Final Episode: “Down & UP”


Bob had been right when he told Tracey that Greg was a “good guy”. Greg, feeling partly responsible for Bob’s back injury, had “forgiven” their rent payments for October, November and December. But now it was January and Greg, seriously impacted by the tough economy, was strapped for cash. He needed his rent payments from all of his tenants. Tracey, bringing home a meager  $780.00 a month from her part time job, was terrified. She was actually having nightmares about being “homeless” and kept waking up soaked with sweat as she visualized Jake and herself cowering together under a bridge as rain pounded down around them as they attempted to stay dry. Bob, at that moment in time, was quite useless and Tracey felt as if she was almost alone. Having been to several Nar-Anon meetings with Judi Pavano, she had started praying.  She was now praying as hard as she ever had in her entire life and was finding a certain inner peace when talking to God. Just like that one of her prayers was answered.

Tracey arrived at work and her manager called her in to the office and told her that one of the full time cashiers had abruptly quit. He offered her the full time position and, just like that, Tracey’s income doubled. When she went on break she called Greg Margolese  and told him what happened and then asked if he might possibly rent them a smaller house with a smaller rent payment than the one they occupied. Greg happened to have a two-bedroom, one-bath vacancy only six blocks away from where they were living and readily agreed. The rent would be $250.00 a month less.Tracey, suddenly re-enforced by her new job and Greg’s cooperation gathered her inner strength and resolve, said a prayer, and went home and packed a suitcase with Bob’s belongings. She placed it in front of her husband and told him, “Either you enter re-hab today or Jake and I are leaving you.”

Bob Slider, possessing an inner strength he did not realize he had,  was admitted to the Rosedale Wellness Center an hour later. Tracey gave him a big hug, told him that she loved him, and watched as he walked down the hall with a nurse to the elevator. She was sick to her stomach and simultaneously happy. That Sunday she and Jake went to Mass with Judi and Tommy. It was the first time that either of them had gone to any kind of church service in years.

Bob was released from re-hab 28 days later. Tracey drove him home to their new house. She had, along with help from Jake, Tommy, Judi and  a few neighbors, completed the move. Bob was stunned but relieved. He began attending Narcotics Anonymous meetings three times a week, enrolled in school and a year later received a certification as an X-Ray Technician. He got a job at Memorial Hospital and remained in school to get further certifications in CT Scans and MRI’s. His pain meds now consisted of only non-narcotic NSAIDS (Non-Steroidal Anti Inflammatory Drugs) like ibuprofen. The previous year’s events had brought them to the very brink of homelessness. The love that flowed among them as a family had been their greatest ally shoring up their weakened defenses in their struggle to survive.. They had beaten the odds. Many do not.

On Easter Sunday, Bob, Tracey and Jake began their day at an Easter Sunrise Service. They were all dressed up and, when the service ended, they had somewhere to go.

PLEASE PRAY FOR ALL THE HOMELESS who are not as blessed as Bob, Tracey and Jake Slider.——

'Grippers" (how to get homeless without even trying #16)

Episode #16 “Thanksgiving” (click on the “Grippers” tab for previous 15 episodes)

Tracey was standing in her own living room feeling completely lost and helpless. She had managed their meager finances with painstaking care and just like that there was no money, no food and she could not follow through on making her agreed payment with the power company. Embraced by a sense of despair she instinctively hurried over to Judi Parano’s.

Judi hugged her and said, “C’mon Trace, I’ll make some coffee and we can sit down and talk.”

Judi quickly became Tracey’s navigator and began guiding her friend and neighbor on a straighter course. The first thing she did was reach into her purse and pull out $80.00 and hand it to Tracey. “Here, put this in your pocket and don’t tell Bob you have it.”

Tracey tried to say something and Judi said, “Don’t worry about it. You don’t have to say anything. Now, I want you to call the St. Vincent De Paul Society—“

“Oh no, Judi. I can’t. They just helped us about two or three  months ago. I’d feel so embarrassed asking again. I don’t think I can.”

“You can. I’ll stand right next to you for moral support.  Now, I have this pamphlet I want to give you. I know you have not said too much about Bob’s pill problem but I know he has one and he will need help with that. But you need help dealing with it. This is a schedule of Nar-Anon meetings in the area.”

“What’s Nar-Anon?”

“It’s like Al-Anon which is for families and friends of alcoholics. Nar-Anon is for families and friends of people hooked on drugs. Tracey—I’ve been there. My brother Anthony is a user. He was tearing the family apart.”

“Anthony? The computer guy with the great job. I had no idea–“

“Tracey, he USED to have a great job. He was fired for missing so much work and he blames everyone else and, oh my God, we don’t even know where he is. Haven’t seen or heard from him in two months. I’m sick over it but I have learned that I cannot do a thing about it. We’re here for him if he decides he wants REAL help. But, in the meantime—–Anyway, you need these meetings. Trust me, there are so many people out there with family members that have gotten caught up in this prescription pill insanity you wouldn’t believe it. You need to remember that Bob Slider, your husband, is still the man he was. That person has been taken over by an evil entity that has transformed him. The real Bob will be back. He just needs you and Jake to be there when he begins his journey home. Understand?”

Ron and Jan from St. Vincent De Paul came out again. Once again they were able to assist with the power bill. They also included Tracey in their “Thanksgiving Giveaway Program” and, on the Sunday before Thanksgiving, Tracey went over to Sacred Heart Catholic Church and was given a holiday “basket” which included a frozen turkey and all the “fixins” including dessert for Thanksgiving day.

Thanksgiving turned out to be a good day in the Slider home. Bob had his “medication” and was acting normal. He and Jake were watching football together and joking around with each other. Tracey, temporarily upbeat and enjoying the moment, happily prepared the meal. On this Thanksgiving day they all had something to be thankful for.

Next time: Here Comes Christmas

"Grippers" (how to get homeless without even trying #15)

Episode #15: “Here come the Holidays” (click on the “Grippers” tab for previous 14 episodes)

Tracey Slider was frazzled and had reached stress levels she had never before encountered. She was not smiling, she was abrupt with Jake, she could not sit still for more than ten minutes at a time, she was not sleeping well and a sense of impending disaster monopolized her thoughts. She was doing her best to manage every penny she was earning but there are no finish lines  when you are riding on a merry-go-round.

It was November 12, less than two weeks until Thanksgiving. Tracey  had worked her six hour shift and, upon clocking out, started to do shopping for the family. She knew to the penny how much was in their checking account, $143.00. She filled the cart with about $60.00 worth of grocery items including two cans of cranberry sauce, two cans of corn and two cans of sweet potatoes which would be used for Thanksgiving. There would be $83.00 left and $75.00 would go to the electric company as per her arrangement with them. There was enough gas in the truck to get them through payday which was four days away. She was proud of herself and deserved to be. She was like  a car running on fumes and now the gas station was in sight.

Tracey unloaded her items onto the checkout counter and watched as her friend, Helen, scanned the items. They were chatting about nothing important when Helen said, “Okay, Trace, that comes to $60.28.”

Tracey smiled, “I can’t believe it. I wanted to spend $60.00 and I went  28 cents over. Not bad.” She swiped her debit card and keyed in her pin number. A message popped up, Insufficient Funds. Tracey was startled and smiled at Helen. She swiped her card again. Insufficient Funds. She looked at Helen, “I don’t understand.” She tried again. Insufficient Funds.


Customers were lined up in back of her. She was wearing the store’s company uniform. It is a fact that humiliation can embrace a person in a nano-second. Tracey instantly wanted to be somewhere else. She fought the panic rising within her and garnered some composure. She took a deep breath through her nose, exhaled and said, “Okay Helen, I’ll just leave the stuff over here. I’ll be back in 15 minutes.”

She left the store, got into Bob’s truck and began to tremble. Taking a few more deep breaths she wiped her teary eyes and headed home. All she could think was, It has to be a mistake, it has to be a mistake. How could they do this. She hurried into the house and right past Bob who was sleeping on the sofa. Sitting down at the computer she logged into her on-line banking site. The screen opened, she keyed in her password and stared at the screen. Balance–negative $89.00. Transactions–there had been two. Friday afternoon a $100.00 cash withdrawal had been made and another one for $60.00. Then there were two bank charges of $36.00 each, one for “insufficient funds” and one for an “over limit” fee. She stared and stared. She thought —-I don’t understand–I didn’t—Oh my God—-She jumped up from the chair and rushed into the living room yelling, “Bob, Bob, wake up! Wake up!”

He remained still and quiet on the sofa. She started yelling at him and pushing his shoulder, “Bob, wake up right now. C’mon, wake up!”

Her groggy husband opened his eyes. “Huh—what? I’m sleeping. Leave me alone. What’s your problem anyway?”

“Did you take money from the ATM yesterday?”

“Huh—the ATM. No–I don’t think so. What’s the difference anyway?”

“”Oh my God, Bob, you did–didn’t you.”

“Fine Tracey, I did. So what. I needed some medicine and I can’t get any until next week. So yeah, I took some money. I suppose I should just lie around here in pain. Now leave me alone.”

“Oh my God, Bob. You’re buying drugs. You’re buying drugs.You took our food money and our money for the power bill and bought drugs from someone. Your stupid two withdrawals overlapped and you caused us to be minus $89.00 in our account. How in God’s name could you do this to me and Jake. How could you?”

Bob was pretty well stoned so he shrugged, rolled over on his side and went back to sleep. Tracey looked down at him and at the moment all she could feel for her husband was contempt.

Next time: “Thanksgiving”

"Grippers" (how to get homeless without even trying #13)

 (click on the “grippers” tab and scroll down for the previous 12 episodes)
Content review:
  1) Intro: “Homelessness and the Grippers”
  2) Episode #1: “Meet the Slider family”
  3) Episode #2: “Bob Slider is laid off”
  4) Episode #3: “Confronting finances over beer & pizza”
  5) Episode #4: “Meeting with the landlord”
  6) Episode #5: “Running out of money”
  7) Episode #6: “Out of money”
  8) Episode #7: “Lights out”
  9) Episode #8: “Here come the church people”
 10) Episode #9:“The Home Visit”
11) Episode #10“Good news & Bad News”
12) Episode #11“What about Jake?”
13) Episode #12“Trick or Treat”


Episode #13: “Getting out of jail–Now what?”


Bob Slider, husband, father, hardworking family man and solid citizen had gone through an unwanted and unexpected metamorphosis. Reborn into a strange world of unemployment, disability and prescription drug addiction, he now found himself being processed into the county jail. After enduring the indifferent, matter-of-fact fingerprinting, mug-shot taking and humiliating strip search, he was placed in a holding cell with a bunch of other guys. Some were laughing, some were crying, some were trembling and some appeared to not give a damn. One thing was the same–they all were wearing freshly laundered orange jump suits with bold, black letters emblazened on the back that said, COUNTY JAIL. As for Bob, his back pain was raging, he was feeling frightened, lost, victimized,  misunderstood and strangely, all he could think of was one thing, I need my pills.


Bob, because he had never been in any kind of trouble before, was released at 10 a.m. the following morning on ROR (on his own recognizance). Judi Pavano had to drive Tracey to the jail to pick Bob up because his license had  been temporarily suspended and his truck impounded. Judi waited in the car while Tracey met Bob at the jail exit.When he saw his wife he began to cry. She could not believe how pathetic he looked. She, too, began to cry. They hugged each other for several moments and then Bob took a breath and asked Tracey, “You got my pills?”

“Uh—no Bob, I don’t. C’mon, let’s get you home.”

“I need the pills Tracey. I can’t believe you didn’t bring them. I’m so sick. You don’t understand, I need my medicine.”

She was a bit stunned that his primary concern was his pills and it was this moment that impacted her with the reality of his addiction “Okay, okay. We’ll be home in 15 minutes. Just hold on.”

Bob’s blood work and urine sample showed that he had more oxycodone and xanax in his system than had been prescribed. His license was officially suspended for six months and he was fined $250.00, the minimum allowed under the law. He also was sentenced to complete a “Law and Substance Abuse” program and  received one year probation which also included doing 50 hours of community service. Since his truck was the family’s only means of transportation it was released from impound for Tracey to use. Being caught up in the criminal justice system was a miserable, unpredictable and downright scary place to be. Factor in two extremely painful, herniated  lumbar discs that almost prevented him from standing up straight and having no money pushed Bob Slider into a deep pit of despair. He was pulling Tracey and Jake with him but Tracey had an unknown  inner strength and resolve inside herself  that would enable her to pull back and fight the forces working against them.

Next time: Episode #14: “Living with Consequences”