National Eating Disorders Association

Jenni Schaefer: Passing the Recovery Baton

Maggi Flaherty, Director of Communications & Digital Engagement

Family members play an integral role in supporting their love one's recovery. During the Friends & Family Kick-Off Dinner to open the NEDA Conference last week in San Antonio, TX, this idea was thoroughly explored through a "Friends & Family" panel discussion.

The event was emceed Thomas P. Britton, DrPH, LPC, LCAS, ACS, CCS  from CRC Health Group and the panel was moderated by NEDA Ambassador and author, Jenni Schaefer, and featured individuals in support and treatment roles:

  • Sibling: Steve Schaefer is the Director of Logistics for Martin Marietta, which is the leading rail shipper of aggregates and heavy building materials in the United States. A Texas native, Steve holds a bachelor of science in civil engineering from Texas A&M University and a master of business administration from the University of Texas at San Antonio. Married for 12 years, Steve and his wife, Destiny, have three boys and are expecting their fourth child in March. Steve is author Jenni Schaefer’s older brother. When she was in her early twenties, he played a vital role in her recovery from an eating disorder
  • Clinician: Sharon Zimbler, MFT, received her Bachelor of Arts degree from Florida International University’s Fine Arts Division. After moving to San Diego from Miami, Florida, Sharon earned her Master’s degree in Marriage and Family Therapy from the California School of Professional Psychology Division at Alliant International University. She is currently working on her Doctorate of Psychology degree in Marriage and Family Therapy. Sharon has experience working with individuals, couples and families, group therapy as well as substance abuse and eating disorders. In addition, Sharon worked as a school based therapist which allowed her to work with high risk children and their families. Sharon’s theoretical approaches include family systems theory and the 12 step model of recovery. Sharon uses her knowledge and passion to promote recovery in her community.
  • Parent: Faith resides in Media, PA with her husband and two adult children. Her daughter was diagnosed with anorexia in late 2008 at the age of 17. It has been a challenging 6 year battle that still continues. As with all parents facing this disease, Faith became an unwilling participant in this marathon and had to navigate the complications of insurance, treatment and the devastation of watching helplessly as a treasured child suffered. Faith is now an advocate for other mothers in the Facebook group MAED (Mother's Against Eating Disorders) This moms-only support group involves over 500 individuals worldwide and serves as a much needed source of support and information.  Faith also lobbies with the EDC in Washington, D.C. She welcomes the opportunity to share what she has learned on this journey.

While opening the panel discussion, Jenni provided some wonderful insights about the, admittingly tough, journey to recovery from an eating disorder. Key insights included the idea that you don't need to completely understand what it is like to have an eating disorder to effectively support a loved one, and the important notion that recovery is a marathon - not a sprint. Sometimes we just need to hand off the "recovery baton" to those in support roles. In Jenni's words, "when you recover from an eating disorder, you recover your life."  Check out her inspiring speech on YouTube!

Passing the Recovery Baton - Jenni Schaefer


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