An Overdose, Then Compassionate Care & Hard Work Offered a Fresh Start
Derek Deline of Penacook almost died the week before his 36th birthday.
After a year putting as little effort as he could into substance misuse treatment, Derek relapsed, overdosed and spent a week at Concord Hospital in July of 2017. His close call changed his life.
“I definitely had a guardian angel on my shoulder that night because I very easily could have been like a lot of my friends who are not here anymore,” Derek said.
While Derek was in the Hospital, Nancy Nemcovich, a drug, and alcohol counselor from Concord Hospital SUS visited, but he was too ill to speak to her. Instead of writing him off as an overdose patient who was not yet appropriate for treatment, she returned when he was stable and he agreed to an appointment with drug and alcohol counselor Frank Caron.
Derek had been in treatment elsewhere, but he said there was a big difference in the peer and professional support he saw immediately through SUS’s Intensive Outpatient Programming (IOP) and Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) with Dr. Dominic Geffken at Concord Hospital Family Health Center.
“I didn’t feel like the staff sees it as just a job,’ Derek said. “I feel like they really want to see people get better.”
He left the Hospital on his 36th birthday, admittedly a difficult person for others to deal with. But, after his overdose, he was very frightened his drug use would kill him, he developed a strong relationship with Caron and began putting in the hard work needed to stop using and start a new life. Within a month of beginning IOP, he had stopped smoking marijuana and misusing Benzos—Benzodiazipine—a tranquilizer.
“I have been completely substance-free for a year now,” he said.
With four sessions a week for a month, IOP was a big commitment, but Derek, a substance user for 20 years, said he doubts he would be clean without it.
“I’ve had periods where I have been clean for a year, or a year plus, but never with the level of care that I have gotten in the last year,” he said. “I had heard about IOP and thought it was way too much– four times a week, I didn’t need that. But after the overdose, I realized I definitely needed it.”
MAT played a major role in Derek’s transformation, providing medication, Suboxone, to suppress his craving for drugs. Typically, Caron said, short-duration detox programs don’t work because even though the substance is removed from the system, cravings for it remain more important than loved ones, a job, and general health.
“If we don’t set off the cravings with a prescription and get the patient into some treatment services so they can get the food, shelter, love, and support they need back into their life, it’s very difficult,” he said.
Derek said the medication helped him “come back to earth and feel like myself again.”
He moved from the IOP into a men’s support group that met weekly for ten weeks and now is in a Continued Recovery Group that meets weekly with no termination period. He’s also been seeing Caron for individual counseling since he left the Hospital—counseling that Caron said involves a lot of listening.
“Yes, we have a goal of being substance-free, but there’s more: Who are you? What do you want to do with your sobriety? What are the things that you used to do prior to this? What do you enjoy?”
In the last year, with much personal effort and continued support from SUS, Derek has been licensed to be a tattoo artist and is working at Glass Street Tattoo in Suncook. He and a partner are opening a second shop in Manchester that they will co-own.
“I’ve changed a lot, and it’s not just not being on drugs,” he said. “Being on proper medication, my mental health is better, I’m getting dental work done. Every aspect of life has improved greatly.”
Derek hopes his story is an inspiration for the healthcare providers who helped him and for others suffering from substance misuse.
“I feel like it’s part of my responsibility now to show people that someone can come back from a really rough place and make something out of themselves, that you can do it and you can make it work,” he said.