(a chapter from Telling Ed No! by Cheryl Kerrigan©)

Evening treatment took place from 5:30 pm to 8:30 pm three nights a week—Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays. Even as I walked towards the building after work on that first cold night, Ed was begging, “Cheryl, why are you doing this? We don’t see each other that often. What’s the problem?”

I had to put him in his place. “Ed, I don’t want to see you anymore, but you keep coming around once in a while and that’s a problem. Just leave me alone.”

Evening treatment at Walden was in the same space as day treatment, so I was familiar with the surroundings and the staff. I opened the door to find five other patients anxiously waiting for the session to begin. I went in determined to gain more tools to fight Ed. As I sat down in my chair, I smiled at the others and we exchanged hellos. Soon we were chatting up a storm about our days, our struggles, and the week ahead. It was comfortable right from the start.

Every evening had the same routine: group therapy based on one of two approaches, either cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), which focuses on confronting cognitive distortions and changing unhealthy thought patters, or dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), which incorporates principles of CBT with skills concerning mindfulness, distress tolerance, and emotional regulation. Therapy group was followed by a supervised dinner and a process group.

Once a week, we were weighed (we didn’t see the number) and our vital signs were taken. In addition, we met with a social worker to go over any issues or problems we were having. A nutritionist was also available to us if we needed support or had questions regarding our meal plans. We had worksheets to fill out daily regarding the meals we ate offsite and any difficult feelings and issues we were facing.

We were required to bring our dinner, which gave us an opportunity to create a “meal on the go” consistent with our individual plans. It was good practice. We all ate together in the group room where conversation or music was always present. It was a relaxed environment and we all seemed to enjoy our time together. After dinner we usually did something to distract us from the discomfort of having eaten, like playing games, meditating, listening to music, or just chatting.

Then we had a process group, which was basically time for anything we needed. We could pose questions to other patients or to the staff, brainstorm ways to interrupt Ed, or talk about problems or issues we were having. I found that even if I wasn’t in the mood to talk, by the end of the group I had gotten totally involved. It was a very interactive and helpful tool.

Evening treatment gave me the extra support I needed in a structured environment where I could connect with others like we were all in different stages of recovery, but wanted the same thing—to get rid of Ed. I particularly enjoyed the DBT group, which helped me to push negative thoughts aside so my mind could be quiet and still.

When evening treatment ended, I had more tools, strength, and confidence to fight Ed—and win. And even though he was pretty aggravated and kept trying to get my attention, I felt excited to put what I learned into action.

Getting extra treatment support in your fight against Ed can be very powerful. Think about your recovery process. Is Ed standing in front of you at times, preventing you from moving forward? What extra help or support would fit into your recovery plan?