Our Story and Founder

Cary_formal_2012-201x300The concept for Rock Recovery – an organization dedicated to bridging eating-disorder treatment gaps – was born in the summer of 2007, when our founder, Carylynn Kemp Larson, faced a fearful relapse into restricting, excessive exercising and binge-eating behaviors. At the time, Cary was a working professional, nearly finished with her doctorate. She had a therapist, a dietitian and a mentor; she had shared her struggles with close and supportive friends and family members, and she attended support group meetings on a weekly basis. The combination of these activities had helped her achieve what she thought was a full and lasting recovery.

But that summer, facing major disappointments and major life changes, this support system became insufficient, and Cary realized that her recovery was not as strong as she’d believed. As she found herself falling back into patterns of restricting, binge eating and excessive exercise, Cary realized that she needed a higher level of care. Terrified of slipping further into what she knew to be an all-consuming set of disorders, Cary sought a step up from her already robust support system. Given that she was engaging in only “mild” disordered eating behaviors once or twice a week, Cary began looking for a residential program that would allow her to keep her job while providing her recovery activities in the evenings, and accountability through the night. As a teleworker, she was able to look nationwide. She found no middle ground – nothing between therapists who could meet with her once a week and 24/7 treatment programs. Frustrated, she began considering residential treatment. To her dismay, the residential programs she contacted questioned whether she was “sick enough” for their services, and while many offered transitional housing, those services were reserved for individuals stepping down from their own inpatient/residential programs. Knowing the depths from which she had come, Cary’s therapist went to bat for her and convinced several residential treatment centers that she was indeed in need of care. In June of 2007, Cary entered a 30-day residential treatment program.

While in treatment, Cary’s awareness of the need for an organization such as Rock Recovery intensified. Each time a fellow resident would transition out of care, the treatment team would invest significant time and effort into an after-care program. Where would the resident live? What would her treatment team look like? Despite their best efforts, the resources just didn’t exist. During her 30 days in the residence, Cary vicariously experienced the difficulties of transitioning from a structured, safe, accountable, understanding, supportive environment to the chaos, misunderstanding, ignorance and constant triggers of the real world. Each time, Cary questioned why so few and inadequate resources existed for those stuck in between intensive treatment and lasting recovery.

The day of her discharge from residential treatment, the need for transitional treatment become very personal. A confusing mix of feelings – joy, hope, relief, anxiety, fear – seemed overwhelming despite the positive coping mechanisms Cary had learned. Fear of the unknown loomed over her. Would she be able to keep disordered thoughts at bay? Would she be able to choose positive coping strategies over destructive ones? Would she be able to maintain recovery after investing so much of her time and finances in residential treatment? A vision for community recovery programs emerged — houses and services nationwide that supported recovery through the pressures of work, school, friends, family dynamics, and times of acute stress. And while the imperative of such services was repeatedly confirmed by treatment professionals with whom she enthusiastically shared this vision, Cary didn’t view herself as part of the picture until the following year.

In January of 2008, after finishing her doctoral degree, Cary began praying regularly for direction. How was she supposed to serve? Who was she called to reach? Her persistence was finally rewarded by a clear and unmistakable message – “I already told you. Trust me. Step out in faith and see that I will provide.” Did God really just call her to take on this impossibly big mission all by herself? No way, she realized. No – certainly, He must be calling on many, many people around the world to accomplish this mission. But there was no question that she needed to stop talking about it and just do it.

As if to confirm her calling, a friend showed up on her doorstep that same weekend with a “Business Plans for Dummies” book. By March of 2008, a name was chosen and a business plan was written. By August, a board of directors was selected. In September, a friend of a friend came to Cary’s side and offered to help with the legal aspects of incorporation and nonprofit status. In record speed, Rock Recovery was official. Rock Recovery was officially founded in December 2008 and gained nonprofit status in March of 2009.

In fall 2009, Rock Recovery launched our first set of community empowerment programs by hosting and attending events throughout the D.C. area. To date, Rock Recovery has educated thousands of individuals on the truths of disordered eating and how to help friends and family members in need.

In summer 2010, we launched our first therapy group in the D.C. area. This group quickly expanded into a suite of activities that complement one another to form a holistic treatment program designed to help working adults (students and full-time parents included!) learn to cope with daily stressors in healthier ways. Since the program’s inception there has been a year-long waiting list to enter the program. We are constantly working to grow our services, capacity and outreach efforts to serve more of this desperate need in the community.

We would love for you to help! Learn more about what you can do to support this work here.

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