Blessings in Disguise: The Saga of Living and Surviving Continues

by Tariq Johnson

The saga of living and surviving homelessness continues. Just when I got comfortable in my stabilization room it seemed like my past hit me again, it was like déjà vu. The bed bugs started to come out the ceiling on the fourth floor where my room was, and when I turned off the lights at night they began to bite. I was shocked cuz I knew this would be the beginning of a long fight. I started filing complaints, buying expensive bed bug spray, throwing things away. The eggs started popping up and I knew I had to move out of there. 

Illustration by Sonya Katcher

They gave me a room downstairs, which was smaller, but no bugs. It had DirecTV, a brand new bed, space heater and fan. So once again my prayers were answered. I had a venous ulcer in my leg, so at least I didn’t have to climb those stairs to the fourth floor any more. My room was right next to the garbage room so I kept it clean. I got an in-home care nurse to come and help me take care of the open wound on my foot, and having a refrigerator and microwave helped me heal, slowly but surely. 

The problem was the rooms were both stabilization rooms. They let me stay there for a year, which was a blessing. But time flew by and I was not able to find housing or a shelter. Time was not on my side. 

Shit! The blessing and curse of being forced back into homelessness hit me again. It was wintertime, and that’s the worst time to be in the streets. I started using drugs again to get by—the street life put me back in survival mode. I put most of my stuff in a friend’s garage. So all I had was a backpack with the bare necessities. I slept in BART stations to keep warm and dry. I was a heroin addict with the host of cocaine on my brain. 

The only thing that rescued me from insanity was my faith in God and humanity. 

It was a cold and wet winter night, with brutal non-stop rain for days. Me and a lady friend shared a doorway with a big umbrella and a tarp over a shopping cart. We had blankets, but it was the coldest night of the year and we were shaking and shivering. Then, a dude begged us to let him in. We looked at each other and decided, why not? Then another guy I knew for some time walked by and I had to let him in cause he didn’t have a coat. He was shaking and shivering, too. 

So we all got up under the tarp and even though the rain was coming down hard we were all dry. We built a fire by pouring hand sanitizer in a can, and put it in the middle of the circle. Everyone was laughing and joking, then this guy came by with a backpack of snacks for $4. We all put a dollar in and it was like we were camping, and it was warm under the tarp. We all looked out for each other and we made it through the coldest night of the year. We all prayed and thanked God for blessing us. 

As the sun rose the next day, we cleaned up our area and went on our merry way. It felt so good to come together with folks you barely knew and survive a storm and live to see the next day. 

This gave me strength, faith, motivation and determination to become proactive in getting help with my addiction and getting off the streets. I got into the Salvation Army detox center and started putting in some work on my recovery. This opened a whole new life for me to stabilize and replace bad habits with good habits. This took time and daily practice, praying, exercising, going to meetings and eating healthy vegetarian meals.

My biggest transition was getting my glasses, because I have a visual impairment which has been deteriorating over the past 10 years. My daughter and my son were really worried about me going blind. Even though we live miles away, this brought us closer together. We started communicating daily, and then the rest of my family started to reconnect with me. The family that prays together stays together, and the blessings begin to unfold. 

I began to approach life with a positive direction. One step at a time and one day at a time. Now I’m in a program called Positive Direction Equals Change. This has been a very instrumental part of me maintaining my perseverance, peace, faith, progress, prosperity, and purpose to make this crazy, mixed-up world a better place. 

I got a job working for a vegan catering company, and my body oil business is doing well and expanding. Now I have my own room with a shower and sink and toilet in it. I’m so grateful to lay in my bed, look out the window to see the stars shine at night and the sun rise in the morning. I really thank God for the love, peace, beauty, and happiness that he is showing me in this crazy mixed up world we live in!

The new beginnings

of blessings came

from what was a 

Curse with a blessing

in disguise