Toms River, NJ woman nearly lost everything on journey to recovery from drug addiction
When you go to the beach and walk through the sand, at some point you may fatigue from the movement through the sand on a hot summer day, more so if you're running or working out on the beach.
At that point moving through the sand feels like walking through the desert or trying to find the strength to finish running or walking back home after a workout through the community.
It can wear down your muscles, you get sore, you're hurting, dehydrated, you feel like you're in pain and your feet are going to fall off.
Sometimes the journey home is much more challenging than the journey to get there.
Sometimes the journey home to sobriety after battling the demons of the disease of drug addiction can be excruciating emotionally, physically, and mentally.
A Toms River woman is journeying back in the sands of time to share her story of how she overcame so much, nearly lost it all in the throngs of addiction but has bounced back to not only find sobriety over the years but also help so many others accomplish that same feat.
Jeanette Roma grew up in the Toms River area with a great family, became a teacher and cheerleading coach with Toms River Regional Schools, and then a mom.
She found through moving through the journey of life, she lost her way and became addicted to opiates.
"It's the hardest thing I've had to go through in my life. I was a professional cheerleader for the (New Jersey/Brooklyn) Nets and got injured, so the doctors overprescribed me medication, one thing led to another and I couldn't get off -- several treatment programs -- I wasn't ready, you know, wasn't ready, until I was done and beaten up and lost almost everything including my daughter -- that's when I realized I needed to shape up and figure it out," Jeanette Roma told Townsquare Media on 'Shore Time with Vin and Dave' on 94.3 The Point and 105.7 The Hawk, on Sunday. "So, I left for three years, I went to Florida and I started a new life, I went to treatment, and I followed every rule and the rule really starts with: go to detox so you're medically taken care of, and that's usually around seven days. I followed the next step which was a 30-day inpatient treatment center -- I completed that, and, I was paying a mortgage in New Jersey, in Toms River, and then I was living in a sober living, I was the oldest one there, however, it is the process for me, but everybody's journey is different."
For her, the roots of some of the behaviors exhibited during her addiction traced back to when she was just 11 years old.
"I believe that the behavior problem started around 11 and the lies and the conniving behaviors and -- I was always an addict I feel like, however, it didn't really hit me until opiates and when they were prescribed. It was really, really difficult, I detoxed super hard and was super sick, however, I never wanted to feel like that again and no one was taking my daughter," Roma said.
There was of course concern back at home as well with trying to ensure Jeanette would be heading on the right path.
"I was married at the time, and I had a great family, my parents -- my dad, Dr. Kerker in Toms River, he's the best, poor daddy, I literally ruined him for a couple of years and he stood by my side. He went to Al-Anon, which is a program for families to understand the disease, and he learned why and how I became, in six-months, a professional cheerleader to what the outside world would call me -- a junkie -- and I wasn't, I just had a problem, I needed to fix it," Roma said. "That's why I want to help others today because, as I said, it's a family disease. If you guys don't work together, if we don't work together as a family and friends, it doesn't work. Everyone has to support each other and the attitude has to be in the right mindset to change."
For Jeanette, the opiates turned into a heroin addiction which became a major problem.
"I'm sober -- December 13, 2014 -- it was a journey. My daughter was born in 2010, I didn't use the whole pregnancy, however, I had a C-Section, they gave me the morphine and here I am pumping the morphine -- that's when I realized I had a problem," Roma said. "So, my daughter -- I'm holding her, dropping the bottle, and just not right. At that point, I didn't want to stop because I was sick and I was trying to be a mom, however, I couldn't cover it up anymore. The heroin got stronger, the needle came into play unfortunately and it was completely obvious -- I was a teacher, actually, at (Toms River) High School East, so, during this whole time I was on maternity leave and I came back to school and I was under the influence and I'm not proud of that but, however, they were supportive -- it was 'go to treatment', I would go to treatment for 30-days, come home, go to a meeting."
She found recovery by meeting with other people going through their own battles.
"What saved my life today was in-person meetings, AA, I'm an addict however, AA's what keeps me sober, I have an awesome network of women, they kick my butt when I'm saying something that is like 'oh, poor me', it's like they change my mindset," Roma said.
It took years, good family, and good friends who helped make up an internal support group to help her stick with the process and journey on the way to recovery and then stick with it all these years later.
Now, she's focusing her efforts on helping others battle through their addictions and stay sober.
"I developed this program with Hackensack Meridian Health, it's called #notevenonce, I work with Manchester Police Department, South Plainfield, North Plainfield, Asbury (Park) -- there's a few more," Roma said. "I work with a police officer in that town, whatever town I'm in, I work with a paramedic -- they come in too -- and I also try and get another addict or alcoholic in that area, right, so it's a three-day module. We go into the schools -- I prefer sophomores because the sophomore year is really the toughest going into the junior year when they're hanging out with the older kids and smoking weed."
Whether it's the #notevenonce program or other programs and meetings, there are options and there is help out there for someone looking to find sobriety.
"They need to understand that they are just like me, the crazy thoughts that go through their head is the same crazy thoughts that I've always had -- I still have 'em -- I just don't use and I don't act on the behaviors," Roma said. "I want to be the one to tell the parent that it's not their fault, to tell the wife or husband -- however, if you have kids -- change, so the kids don't see what's going on and there is resources and the resources out there can be found."