Intensive Outpatient Treatment: Restarting Our Life Together

by Elizabeth on April 1, 2013

Hello everyone. I hope you all had a blessed Easter weekend with your families. Thank you again for the encouraging words last week. I have to admit, writing that post was difficult for me, but I feel like it was good to ?journal? about my thoughts and feelings for the first time since that experience. I tend to get a bit long-winded and ?preachy? when I write, so please bear with me.

Let?s jump back into the treatment journey. Elizabeth finally committed herself to the treatment program at ERC, but the road that lied ahead was long and rocky to say the least. There were several things that perturbed Elizabeth about her treatment plan while in inpatient and PHP (partial hospitalization program), but I want to highlight a main concern that was difficult for both of us to overcome. There was no finish line. No definitive plan for an ending to the hell she was going through. I can sympathize with her frustration because I know that every trial has to have an end, and when the light at the end of the tunnel is not visible, you begin to lose hope. I think this is an important piece of the wellness process for loved ones to grasp. (Pardon me for beating a dead horse here since Elizabeth touched on this point in her Good Friday post?but I think it?s worth reemphasizing). There IS no tangible finish line to aim for in recovery and wellness. It is a life-long process. Of course, there are milestones throughout the journey that grant you much needed vitality and peace, but there is no magical transformation day when the struggles and thoughts vanish for good. This is something, as a spouse, that I still struggle with accepting, and I have no problem admitting it. The road to recovery is full of set-backs and hurdles that take multiple attempts to overcome.

Let me back up before I lose my voice from on top of this soap box. While I can empathize with Elizabeth?s frustrations during inpatient and PHP, I also have an understanding for the treatment team?s situation at the time. There was no time frame that anyone could lay out for Elizabeth with any kind of accuracy because everyone reacts differently to treatment in their own time. They had to be especially careful with Elizabeth because of her pregnancy. I remember Elizabeth would finally get some general time frames (i.e. 2-3 more weeks) from her treatment team, and she would cling to them with death grips. When those timing expectations were not met; she felt betrayed and lied to. It seemed like she began to lose trust in her treatment team because she could never get a straight answer from anyone as to when she would be able to go back home. There are a lot of things as a husband [especially with a problem solving engineering mind] that I wish I could fix, and this was no exception. I tried over and over again to convince Elizabeth that a positive, optimistic attitude would significantly increase the effectiveness of her treatment, but the ambiguity in her ?length of stay? seemed to keep he is a state of contempt for much of her treatment process.

Elizabeth spent five weeks in inpatient before her treatment team decided she was ready for the move to PHP. She moved into an apartment with a peer while going to treatment for twelve hours per day. It was designed as a stepping stone so that she could slowly transition into IOP (intensive outpatient) in Houston while living at home again. ERC (Eating Recovery Center) is of the opinion that people moving straight from inpatient back into their home environment to start IOP is a recipe for relapse? I can?t say that I disagree. Anyway, with the approval of Elizabeth?s treatment team, (I am a rule follower to the ?T?? it drives Elizabeth crazy sometimes!) I decided to temporarily move up to Denver so that she could stay with me instead of a peer in-between treatment. We bounced around into cheap motel rooms for a couple of weeks until my uncle generously offered up his vacant home for us to stay in. My boss and my company went out of their way to accommodate our situation, and I couldn?t be more grateful for their patience and dedication to family. I worked remotely for four weeks from Denver while Elizabeth went through PHP. Despite the progressions that she was making, the path seemed never ending in her eyes. She wanted to be at home getting Noah?s nursery ready and enjoying her pregnancy with our family inside the comfort of our home. Although Elizabeth may not admit to it, she and I really had some fun during our stay in Denver. I fell in love with the city parks and the beautiful mountain scenery, and by God?s grace, my temperament and attitude remained optimistic and cheerful. The good Lord has a way of calming the storms in our lives if we trust in his plan.

After four weeks of living in Denver with Elizabeth, my job called for me to make a trip offshore for a few days. I was a bit skeptical about leaving Elizabeth in Denver by herself, but it seemed like the right thing to do given my boss/job had granted me so much freedom over the last month. The first night offshore, once I had access to the phone, I called Elizabeth to check in. Much to my surprise, she was driving through Amarillo, TX in route to Houston! I felt heartbroken, angry, and disappointed. As you can imagine, it was an upsetting situation for me since I was 60 mi. offshore with no means of getting back to dry land until the next day at the earliest. Once I calmed down and gathered my thoughts, I came to grips with the fact that she was coming home whether we (her treatment team and I) thought it was time or not. There was a part of me that felt somewhat reassured since she had stayed in Denver for nine weeks, and it seemed feasible that she was ready for the transition into IOP. Elizabeth promised me that she had a plan for IOP when she got to Houston, and that she would go back to Denver in an instant if she didn?t follow through with her treatment plan. I think in Elizabeth?s mind, she was fed up with the open-ended time frame for her next step-down, and she finally had a chance to make that decision for herself when I left [I will let her speak to that though..]. To her defense, she had researched IOP opportunities in Houston, and she had concrete plans to start at Sentido Center immediately upon her return. At the time, it was a difficult situation to internalize. I didn?t know how to react. On one hand, my wife was finally home and we could start our life again in Houston. On the other hand, I still felt some anger about how the situation unfolded combined with some anxiety around potential relapse. I reminded myself that things don?t always turn out exactly how we plan, but we have to do the best that we can, as a family, with the cards we?ve been dealt.

So, ideal or not, that was the start to Elizabeth?s IOP program at Sentido Center in Houston. Just like she promised, she started IOP treatment upon her arrival, and she seemed to have an optimistic outlook on her treatment team from the get-go. I was very pleased with Elizabeth?s perseverance, and it was obvious to me that she had a sincere desire for wellness. Keep in mind, I am not trying to paint a picture-perfect situation in your head where we lived happily ever after without another worry! We struggled through a lot of difficult times just like any married couple. Specifically as a spouse, just like enduring any trauma, I was [and still am] occasionally haunted by the thoughts of relapse. I have noticed that my own personal stress usually projects itself onto the eating disorder behaviors. Any and every struggle seems to be highlighted, and my mind quickly jumps to conclusions that we are in the midst of relapse! I have learned through couples? therapy that many spouses who have gone through eating disorders or addictions with their spouse struggle with these same overdramatic tendencies. For Elizabeth and me, good communication has been key for preventative maintenance. We try to check-in with one another at least once a week to see how things are going on a personal level. It gives me a chance to express my concerns and clear my mind so that the anxieties from the eating disorder don?t consume my mind and take away from our time together. Elizabeth also has a chance to empathize with my personal struggles so that she can gauge my stress levels and lean on me or support me accordingly.

Let?s move on. After three months of IOP in Houston, Elizabeth and I were blessed with our first son, Noah Joseph, on November 18, 2011. It was the happiest day of our lives, and I truly believe that God?s timing was perfect when he gave us life. Noah helped his mother and me to cross the treacherous waters that lied ahead of us. He was the ark that kept us afloat.


I have to admit, Elizabeth has done a tremendous job over the last two years committing herself to wellness. I am truly amazed at her strength and fortitude, and I am thankful for her dedication to our family. The road is rocky at times, and the journey to wellness is filled with ups and downs, but I am thankful in spite of our struggles which I will get into next week?

Thanks for reading and please feel free to ask me any questions.


I am thinking of writing another piece from my perspective, but I’m not sure if it’s too many details or would even be helpful. I don’t want it to look like I’m being defensive or this blog is all about eating disorders… Leave me a comment if it’s something you’d like to hear though!


{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Jill Stewart April 1, 2013 at 3:54 pm

Joe, I think your posts are fabulous! You are so brave to share your deepest feelings and thoughts on this journey. I like the details and really enjoy hearing another husbands perspective on the recovery process. Please continue…it is beneficial to hear your thoughts, feelings, struggles, blessings, etc on your and Elizabeth’s journey. I, too, see such strength in Elizabeth and hold her dearly in my heart even though we are MILES apart. She is an amazing women and God works in mysterious ways and can make something beautiful out of trials in life if we place our trust in Him. I like how you are giving the glory to God, He clearly is blessing the both of you! I love it!!!!


2 katie April 1, 2013 at 3:58 pm

id love to hear more from your perpective!!and thank you for posting this! its quite eye opening. ive been suffering from anorexia for about 9 years now but this has been very helpful it helps me look at the bug picture of where i want my life to go and how i have effected/am effecting everyone around me
all my love and prayers xoxo
katie anne


3 Chelsea April 1, 2013 at 4:03 pm

” The good Lord has a way of calming the storms in our lives if we trust in his plan”- amen, Joe! Thank you, again, for being so open and willing to share such a personal and touching sorry! And Elizabeth, I’d love a response post! I kind of enjoy hearing both sides of the story :)
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4 Thais @ Eats n Miles April 1, 2013 at 4:41 pm

I would love to read another post from your perspective!! Thanks again for your honesty and willingness to share such a personal journey.


5 Megan April 1, 2013 at 4:42 pm

I also would love to hear your perspective. I am finding these posts very helpful and I think they give me hope. Thank you both for being willing to share your experiences.


6 Rachel @ Undercover Diva: A Sitcom April 1, 2013 at 4:45 pm

<3 I honestly have no words to describe the beauty of these posts, so I'm going to quit while I'm ahead.
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7 Sarah @PickyRunner April 1, 2013 at 4:55 pm

I’d love to hear about how you feel since coming OUT of treatment. Like if you still struggle, what aspects are hard for you, etc. Only if you’re willing to share :)
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8 Caroline April 1, 2013 at 7:27 pm

I would love to hear more from your perspective! I have really enjoyed Joe’s posts and admire his and your honesty regarding your eating disorder–you are a great inspiration to so many women.


9 Karen @ Runner Girl Eats April 1, 2013 at 7:29 pm

I’d love to read more. You are both so open and honest about all of this. So very brave.


10 Sandy April 1, 2013 at 7:34 pm

I would love to read this story from both perspectives. This is just a really great thing. It is amazing how you are both so honest and willing to share.


11 Heather @ farmgirlgonechicagoan April 1, 2013 at 7:55 pm

I think hearing both sides is great. It’s interesting to hear how this affected both of you and how you did deal and still are now. I think Joe’s way of expressing it’s just not a fix to do impatient care and there is no finish line is educational. I guess I never understood this is something that people will always have to deal with in their lives. I have learned a lot from the posts!
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12 Julia April 1, 2013 at 7:57 pm

Keep it up. The posts are wonderfully written, and I love the honesty and authenticity of them. I can really relate, to a degree, a lot of what you two are writing. I had an eating disorder when I was 11. I snapped out of it after a year, but I have never been quite the same, fluctuating back and forth on a spectrum of disordered eating and dysfunctional relationships at times with food and exercise. It’s like that ED’s grip on you loosens, but it’s always there. For me, my tendencies get worse when I am stressed out and have a lot on my plate, because I am a control freak and want to feel in control and have everything perfect at all times. I thank God that he has never let it fully take over me and that I am at a healthy weight and fitness ability, but it can definitely be a struggle at times to keep a positive attitude and not beat myself up when I “overeat”.
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13 Melissa April 1, 2013 at 8:02 pm

I’ve been reading your blog regularly since I discovered it and haven’t commented yet but I just want to commend you both for your honesty and vulnerability with these posts. I read many wellness, fitness, health blogs and yours by far has been my favorite to read. I absolutely would love to read another one from your perspective, Elizabeth. I think these posts are so eye opening and raw and could help many many people. I have struggled with what I called “disordered eating” for the past few months and have finally come to terms with the fact that: one, it’s an eating disorder I’m struggling with and two, I need help with it and have since started that process. I truly have you both to thank for that and my boyfriend has loved reading Joe’s perspective. He has found it helpful in his own journey helping me through this.


14 Debbie @ Deb Runs... April 1, 2013 at 8:15 pm

I think both perspectives are very helpful in truly understanding the disease. Noah has truly special parents.
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15 Shana Clancy April 1, 2013 at 9:19 pm

I have loved hearing Joe’s perspective and I would love to hear yours as well


16 [email protected] April 1, 2013 at 11:03 pm

Joe & Elizabeth ~ you are giving such a gift by sharing this story.
Elizabeth, I think that the fact that you posted a pre-post comment at the end of this entry lets us know that you’re coming from a place of wanting to share another side to the story. I think if you hadn’t done that… sure, it could come across as defensive (though those reading your blog regularly would know otherwise). There are three things going on here from my perspective ~ your experience, Joe’s experience, and your experience as a couple. All three are inspiring stories!
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17 Carly @ Snack Therapy April 2, 2013 at 12:35 am

Elizabeth, I’m loving these posts. Well, not loving them, because they’re terribly sad to read, but I do appreciate them immensely! They’re beautifully written and so inspiring.

I liked the point about how men are often “fixers.” They want concrete ways to fix a situation! Sometimes, support, not solutions, is the best thing a parter can offer!
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18 Amy April 2, 2013 at 10:58 am

I love hearing both your sides. It brings back so many memories. I can totally relate. I am sure you know this but I will say it anyways… becareful with always thinking something is a sign of relapse. Trust her do tell you that she is struggling and make that okay. I know my sisters and parents went through trauma with all my hosptializations, feed tubes, relapses but that was years ago and they still look at me to relapse. I am not healed completely and I do struggle but I know the tools and I reach to the professionals. Sometimes its more stress to eat and do things when you think people are watching and judging your actions. Atleast for me.


19 Danica @ It's Progression April 4, 2013 at 7:38 pm

The paragraph about Noah’s birth (and name meaning) sent chills up my spine…I’m so glad you did this series–I’ve learned to much all while being able to relate to a lot of it as well!


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