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“I really love this job, because it helps deepen my own recovery.”

Hilary Denton, a Peer Recovery Coach with Turning Point Center of Central Vermont, describes her work supporting patients struggling with substance use disorders who seek treatment in the Emergency Department at UVM Health Network – Central Vermont Medical Center.

As a recovery coach, I come into the hospital and meet with patients who are struggling with substance use issues. And then I follow up with them for several days, and sometimes months after.

When I go in and meet with patients, they’re often feeling really, really horrible. They might be feeling really, really sick, or they might also just be feeling really depressed and shameful. So I like to go in there, and just meet a patient where they’re at, just sit with them and hold space for their discomfort, for their sadness, for their own grief, for their own misery.

I’m in recovery myself, and I have a very large and deep compassion for this population, for people who are still struggling with addiction. I really love this job, because it helps deepen my own recovery. It helps me to remember what it’s like for those that are still suffering with addiction. And I’m constantly learning new things, new recovery tricks. I’ve already learned a lot with my own experience, so I appreciate being able to share that with others.

If a person is here for a RAM request, which is Rapid Access to Medication Assisted Treatment, the nurses and the doctors will draw blood, take a urinalysis, and decide if they’re a good fit, in addition to asking some questions about their withdrawal symptoms or their current usage and what drugs.

I’m here with them the whole time, going through the process with them, just being a support, and listening to their concerns, and sometimes meeting the doctors, and discussing the patient’s concerns with the doctors or the nurses, depending on a patient’s comfort. Upon leaving, they have an appointment already set for them to meet with their treatment provider, within 24 to 48 hours.

Hopefully, when folks see that there is a face on the other side of addiction and in recovery, I’m hopeful that that will give them the courage to take the steps to move forward in their own life, in their own journey of recovery.

For me, it’s incredibly rewarding to see people make steps. And even if they’re just baby steps, they’re steps that really count. They’re the ones that count the most, oftentimes, to get a person out of the circle and the cycle of addiction.

Today, for me, life is really, really good. Every day is a blessing. Every day, I’m happy to be here. I’m happy to do my job. I’m happy to live life. I’m even happy to deal with the struggles that come up every day. At one point, the struggles were too much, too overbearing, and I would just shy away, or hide out in my room, or hide out in my house, and not want to deal with people. And today, I like people. I like to talk with people. I like to help them. I like to be helped by them as well. My worst day sober is better than my best day using.

This video was directed by Kim Asch, with the UVM Health Network