Addiction is not a choice, but a disease, Dorothie Bonfanti said, a prevailing sickness that still has power even after nearly four years of sobriety.
Bonfanti took those 1,372 days one at a time — the only way an addict can reach recovery, which is never actually achieved, as it’s an ongoing battle.
The 29-year-old Lacey resident began her road to addiction at the youthful age of 13 with Percocet, a pain reliever prescribed for her Scoliosis.
“I noticed the more I took, the better I felt,” she said.
This habit continued for three months, before the prescription was no longer.
Bonfanti got drunk for the first time at 15 years old.
Then she smoked pot.
“That was really the only thing to do here in Lacey,” she said.
She continued drinking and smoking marijuana through age 22, when she was reintroduced to prescription drugs through her first husband who got hurt on the job.
It started with, “Oh, I have a headache,” and continued with her purchasing prescription drugs on the street in Lacey and Ocean Gate.
She proceeded to also use ecstasy, cocaine and crack.
In June 2009, Bonfanti left a bar drunk and high, and crashed into three parked cars. She was charged with refusal to submit to a breath test, DUI, leaving the scene of an accident, reckless driving and three charges involving controlled dangerous substances, she said.
“I spent a night in jail,” she said. “It was the hardest thing I had to do like that.”
Bonfanti grew up in a “good family” and was a “good kid,” despite her addiction, she said.
After the accident, her first husband left, and she spent a week trying to get into a rehab facility.
She entered the New Hope Foundation in Marlboro Township with five days of detox and 28 days of rehab.
On July 15, 2009, she was released and has been sober since.
Bonfanti says she turned to addiction because she was picked on as a kid and felt alone, even though her family and friends were there for her.
Her family had talked to her about drugs throughout her childhood. She would come home and her mother would put on television specials about the dangers of drug use.
Her parents held interventions because Bonfanti’s drinking was out of control, she said.
“I remember coming home drunk as a teen and my dad seeing me,” she said. “They tried their best. It’s hard to deal with it if you’re not an addict.”
With drugs, she made new friends and no longer felt lonely.
"I had that mentality that it would never happen to me…After that it was addiction. I couldn’t get away from it," she said. "All my "I nevers" turned into my "I dids." '
Recovery was on Bonfanti’s own time, she said. Today she continues in a 12-step program.
“I also try to give back as much as I can,” she said. Bonfanti speaks to addicts and groups about addiction. She also talks to her three children — 8, 7 and 3 years old — about her addiction. They’ve even attended meetings with her.
“They know I’m an alcoholic and a drug addict. They know it’s bad,” she said.
Bonfanti treats her addiction as if it’s a disease, she said.
“I look at it as a cancer,” she said, adding that her program, sharing her story and prayer is her medicine.
“(Sharing) helps me to remember where I don’t want to go again,” she said. “My worst day sober will always be better than my best day drunk.”
Living life continues to be a “challenge,” Bonfanti said. Drugs and alcohol were her escape.
“It’s hard to deal with life on its own terms,” she said.
It was especially hard when she returned to her Beach Boulevard home, after evacuating for Hurricane Sandy, with a tree in her house and water damage not from flooding but from rain.
“We’re still waiting to get it fixed,” she said, adding that her family is temporarily living in South Toms River.
“I’m stronger than I was four years ago,” she said. “If it happened four years ago, I couldn’t guarantee I would’ve stayed sober. I had the tools to get through it.”
Bonfanti expects the next four years to be just as challenging, she said, as she anticipates feeling similar feelings, such as sadness and heartache, that led her to addiction in the first place.
“Life for me isn’t perfect but it’s better than it was. I have to live my sobriety every day,” she said. “I live day by day. If I can just stay sober just for today, then I’ll be okay.”