I want to start off saying that "I am recovered"!! Wow!! It feels amazing to be able to finally say "I am recovered"!!! I can truthfully say if you ever have a loved one or friend that needs help for their eating disorder Ai Pono, Maui is the best place!! I had tried another residential place but disliked the last one so much that I was against/afraid to try another one. I thought I would be able to do it IOP...seriously!! I tried for about 1 1/2 years with appointments 5 days a week some weeks with some days having 2-3 appointments in a day...while working full time at a new job, plus dealing with my life as a mom and wife and other family isses!!! It was physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausting!! Even though I had (and still have) an amazing team of therapists, a nutritionist, primary care physician, skype sessions with Dr. Anita Johnston co-founder of Ai Pono, Maui, and a somatic treatment therapist...I still kept hitting this wall! It was like no matter what I did or tried I just couldn't get past that wall!!! It was so frustrating and exhausting!! Durning the summer of 2016 I literally had one foot up on a bridge and was going to jump! I was struggling so much and feeling so defective,so broken and worthless....but thanks to Deborah (my therapist) and my amazing husband Don, I didn't. I finally realized that I needed more help...but yet was afraid to try another place. I struggled with this for a few more months before I finally spoke to my husband, therapist and Anita about the needing the extra help. Shockingly (NOT!) they all were in agreement that I definitely needed residential treatment. In a previous skype session Anita had told me about Ai Pono and how it was a small facility (only 8 beds) which is what I needed and wanted. She also knew that my safety spot was the ocean....which you can see from the family room! It was like fate a small facility and my safety spot!! The only thing that was holding me back was insurance!!! Brittany is amazing at working with all the clients and their insurances and all the issues that go with insurance companies!!
I just remember during a skype session crying to Anita saying I'm not sure how much longer I can do this...it was like my body was saying I can't do this anymore I'm tired!! I was so physically, mentally and emotionally exhausted and was struggling to push myself. It was one of the hardest decisions to leave my husband and 4 kids especially with Christmas coming up and I didn't want to be away from my family. However, after many conversations and debating back and forth (not only with myself but my team and my husband) I knew I really needed to go because I couldn't do it at home.
I spent the next 7 1/2 weeks at Ai Pono, Maui!!! I can honestly the staff was the most amazing,caring, supportive, helpful, safest, kindest, compassionate, positive, encouraging, and the safest place to get in touch with my emotions! During my stay at Ai Pono I had some bad anxiety attacks, a lot of fears, sadness, anger, and frustration...but I also had great days with laughter, smiles, new friendships and tons of encouragement, love and support!!! There was always someone there with open arms for a friendly hug if needed (or wanted),a smile, words of encouragement,someone to check in with or even if you didn't feel like talking but just needed that extra support they were there!! There were several times that someone had to help me calm down and helped me feel and know that I was safe!! While at Ai Pono, I faced my biggest fears around food, self image,self esteem, self confidence and helped me confront/work on my past traumas. They helped me realize that I am worth fighting for and pushed me to challenge my Voldemort voice! Having support 24/7 was not only what I needed but was so amazingly helpful!!! I not only was able to finally achieve my goal of be able to get on the plane to go home saying "I am recoverd"...but I also got to not only meet Anita in person but she autographed my book!! I even joked with the other girls that night at the dinner table saying: "OMG!! call me a geek but holy crap...I got to meet Anita Johnston, I not only got a hug, but a picture and an autograph....this is AMAZING!!!! Lets just say I got a lot of laughs that night!
Ai Pono really opened my eyes to see things for what they truly are! It's like I see things so differently now...everything seems so much brighter!!! It's like I can finally breathe and my stomach is no longer in knots!! I feel amazing!!! I know Voldemort will always be a part of my life but he is now this small part of my past not my future!! Ai Pono is always going to have a special place in my life and heart!!! They have not only helped me get another chance at life but also another chance to be a healthier, happier wife, mother, daughter, sister and friend!!!! I want to send out a big heart felt Thank You to everyone at Ai Pono, Anita and everyone who helped establish Ai Pono,Maui!!! You are the best!!! Again,if you know of anyone who needs help with their eating disorder I highly recommend Ai Pono...they truly are the best and give you the best care and support!!
Send you all my love & hugs to everone at Ai Pono :)
This program played an important role in my recovery mainly with a support with behavioral intervention, normalization of eating/relationship to food, connection to my intuition and identity, and psychological challenges along with those.
They provided me a very individualized care and accommodated my needs as an student who had to study for and take final exams while I was at the facility.
Of course, no program is perfect, especially when it is brand-new (it was about only 6 months after opening when I was there).
Some of the issues were staffing issues, program organization and inconsistency with staff's understanding of certain rules and concepts. Thus, many days there were not as therapeutic as they could've been. It also was disappointing to find out that Dr.Johnston (an amazing author of Eating in the Light of the Moon and a clinical director of Ai Pono) was not visiting the program very often and I did not get to see her in person.
HOWEVER, no program can be just perfect and even with those issues to be improved on, I AM STILL SO GLAD that I went to Ai Pono Maui, where I met a therapist who helped me come out of the very thick and dark shell as well as provided a new tool, an incredible dietitian who later became my inspiration after I recovered, and a recovery buddy I still keep in touch.
Getting them on board to my support team and recovery journey helped me greatly to keep going even after the residential treatment, especially during challenging times of slips and relapses.
The after-support my primary therapist and dietitian gave me was also incredible and I am very grateful for that.
I also met a psych-tech and some nurses who were mentally as supportive as a therapist and their support was essential for me to survive the hardest days I had at the program.
Treatment programs always learn from clients as much as they teach things to clients, and I sincerely hope this great program has become even greater. I hear a lot has changed since I was there.
THANK YOU Dr. Johnston for establishing APMaui, the only one residential program in Hawai'i. I and my FULL recovery very much needed my time there.