By spring of my senior year in high school, I was D-O-N-E. Although I was going to miss my
friends, teammates, and mom’s spaghetti, I was ready to move on. Prepared to head to the University of Oregon that fall, I had everything ready to go: My new beige dorm room bedding, my favorite pasta poster newly framed, my big green fluffy bathrobe, a blue shower caddy, and a mini-fridge (a luxury item in 1986). I was excited for the freedom and adventure waiting for me outside my hometown. On the big day, my parents and I loaded the family station wagon and made the two-hour drive down to Eugene, the warm sun and vibrant fall leaves idyllically framing my vision of football games and fraternity parties. But as we got closer to campus and reality hit, the nerves set in. I’m not sure I’m ready for this.
“I’m fine, you guys can go now, “ I said to my parents after they had helped me unpack my stuff into the tiny room, the tears rolling down my mom’s cheeks threatening to unleash my own.
“Call me later?” my mom said, looking back at me as my dad led her down the hallway toward the exit. I wanted nothing more than to run to them and beg them to take me home. Despite some rocky years, they had been there for me. My mom and dad were my safety net, my security blanket, my anchors . Although they were only a phone call away, I need to prove I could do it to my parents, but more importantly, to myself.
“I am sure going to miss you, “ my dietician Gretchen said to me, shaking her head beaming with pride.
Gretchen,” I choked, unable to find the words big enough for my gratitude, “ thank you for….everything.”
Two weeks prior, Gretchen had informed me that she and my therapist Kirsten had agreed I was firmly rooted in my recovery. Although my weight was still lower than they would have preferred, it had been stable for quite some time, even holding steady during a much anticipated but potentially risky family vacation. Our first for Marc, the boys and I since D had returned from Evoke, and we had embarked on Intensive family therapy to put our family back together. It had the potential to be a disaster for my family, and my body. But, despite some speed bumps, it was fantastic in many ways, and I held my own emotionally and physically. It was the final assurance Gretchen, Kirsten and I needed that I had the tools necessary to keep myself healthy outside the guidance and security of treatment.
For two years and three months, I had been trekking across town for my weekly sessions with Gretchen. Hours spent sitting across from her in that green chair as she helped me untangle the knotted ball of rules and rituals that I wound so tightly around myself. Gretchen, who pushed me when I was stuck in a weight rut, celebrated with me when I went up a pant size, and showed me compassion when I was too sad with worry over my son to focus on myself. She had over the years become my safety net, my security blanket, my friend.
I’m not sure I’m ready for this, I thought to myself as Gretchen and I shared one final hug in the foyer of her home office.
Although Gretchen was only a phone call away, I knew I wouldn’t call, at least not right away. I wanted to prove I could do it, to Gretchen, but more importantly, to myself.
I was excited, yet so nervous for this trip. I felt a lot of pressure for it to go well. To successfully put into practice what we had been learning in family therapy. It tested our recovery as a family and my own personal recovery. But we survived and even had some fun in there too! (Maui, 2018).