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John Bonavia: Helping to Change the Futures of Those Who Suffer


As I walk down San Diego’s boardwalk, I spot John Bonavia sitting under an umbrella, lost in thought over the gorgeous view. It’s a gloriously clear day, and as I approach, he jumps up to greet me. After we shake hands, John Bonavia shows me to a seat, then settles in his own for our interview. “It’s just spectacular here, isn’t it?” he marvels, looking appreciatively at the beach. “You’d never know that in a place of such beauty there are hurting youth as well as people addicted to substances.”

John Bonavia is on a mission: he wants to use his own life experiences to help others find the peace and healing they deserve. He is concerned that so many people suffer in silence from their issues. “Look at the beach,” he suggests, turning his gaze to the dozens of people enjoying the water in front of us. “They all look happy, don’t they? But somewhere down there are people who are addicted to drugs and are desperately unhappy. They are stuck in the loneliness of a monster that has them by the throat, and those people are who I am determined to help.”

To get there, however, John Bonavia knows that he needs some training first. “That’s why I am going to school full-time: I am working to get my degree in psychology. Once I have it, I plan to come alongside those who are addicted to substances and help guide them to recovery.”

It’s the perfect career for a man who loves people. “I could talk to people all day long,” John Bonavia confesses, smiling a little. “They fascinate me, but I like to think that I am a good listener, too. I just want to use my skills to help those who are lonely find themselves again.”

He is already well on his way. “I have started a social club for people who miss the social scene of their twenties,” John Bonavia explains. “I understand how they feel – I used to go to the clubs when I was younger, and I loved the energy and the excitement of it. However, you inevitably hit a new stage of life, one that involves family and work responsibilities. Those things aren’t bad, of course – far from it! Even so, it’s a bit of a change for a lot of people, and they sometimes miss that camaraderie. That’s why I started this social club: I wanted to give them the opportunity to experience that same fun without worrying about drinks being spilled on them.”

John Bonavia is also passionate about children, especially those who are troubled and need a mentor to show them a different way to live. “I try to volunteer as much as I can,” he says, “because stepping into a kid’s life like that could be exactly what they need. So many of them are looking for love and acceptance in the wrong places, and I hope that by mentoring them, I am showing them a different way to live, one that will lead to a stronger life path for them.”

These days, John Bonavia is working on a series of Tedx talks that will focus on overcoming addictions and life hurts. “We all go through rough patches and face hurtful actions from other people,” he states. “I can definitely relate. I want to use my experiences to connect with those struggling with addictions so that what I have lived through can help me to be of service to others.”

What John Bonavia has lived through has taught him the real meaning of success. “I was a bit foolish when I was younger,” he confesses. “I believed that because I had the great car and the luxurious house, I was successful. I looked around and had every material possession that I needed. Then I lost it all. In the blink of an eye, it was gone. That’s when I began to learn the truth about success: it’s what you attain when you are courageous enough to go down a path that is rooted in your own mistakes and life lessons. I started to understand that the only way I could find my own self-respect was by having the integrity to put others ahead of me.”

John Bonavia looks back out at the beach, which is deceptively tranquil. “I truly believe we need to start looking under the surface of society so that we can see what’s really happening: we are surrounded by people who are hurting. I plan to use the rest of my life to find them and to help guide them to the peace they are looking for.”

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