Jenny graduated from Knowledge for Change in 2015 and went on to complete Psychology for Change in 2016. She tells us about the changes she experienced and where she is headed next…

What had you already achieved on the Knowledge for Change course?

Knowledge for Change (KfC) gave structure to my day, a reason to get up and get out, which I hadn’t had before. It was a safe place for me to go where I could share my experiences and opinions with people who had been through similar things as me. That allowed my confidence grow.

What helped bring you to the decision to do the Psychology for Change (PfC) course?

One of the facilitators of KfC said they saw a change in me that I couldn’t see myself, that I was like a small bud that had been closed and was beginning to open out. I was very shy when I started and, although I was still shy, he had seen me interacting in the group a lot more during the course, being brave and sharing honestly about myself, which helped others in the group to open up. He recommended me for PfC.

What did you find helpful about PfC?

It allowed me to develop a sense of my real potential, to develop some self belief after years thinking I was not good enough to do anything. It helped me realise there was a lot more to Jenny than being ‘an alcoholic’, that there are other things I can be and do. The 1-2-1 sessions were really helpful for getting feedback and provided another safe corner for me to be in, and to share and discuss things I was less comfortable talking about in group.

I learnt about my thinking errors, or “stinking thinking”, which kept me trapped such as mind-reading, taking things personally, catastrophizing, belittling myself…  The “Understanding your emotional world” day helped me to see the roots of my addiction in my family and past experiences – how these had an impact on my growth and development. It allowed me to make sense of a lot of things that had happened which, for me, was crucial for moving on. If I didn’t understand this stuff I would be stuck where I had been for over thirty years! Now, I can move on from there. I have new ways of relating with my family and friends.

"It helped me realise there was a lot more to Jenny than being ‘an alcoholic’, that there are other things I can be and do."

How have your family and friends noticed a change in you?

They have noticed that I am positive and optimistic now. I try new things, such as going to the cinema or theatre, taking the bus or train…just going places, which I never did before! I am also making decisions, as opposed to following along with others all the time. I can state my preferences and speak up for myself without fear or worry about how others will react – that they might not like what I say or put me down. I understand that there is a difference between being aggressive and assertive and I can be the latter.

I have had lovely feedback from my drama teacher, who said in my report this term “Jenny applies herself with focus and a sense of fun to the roles she takes. She has a clear sense of her characters and is full of ideas and creativity. Her confidence is growing as she volunteers to take on more public speaking and poetry recitals…” I am doing all sorts now; performing, improvising, directing others. I am also doing an upholstery course! Banging nails into bits of furniture is something I’d never have seen myself do before. I really enjoy the small and practical class.

I have also started creative writing. With that one I put a bit of pressure on myself and had a wobble –  I thought I wasn’t getting anywhere and about quitting, but I was being too harsh on myself. I caught myself going back to that old way of thinking and corrected it! Next term I am going to continue.

What makes you optimistic about the future?

I have so many choices now.  I can be just as good as anyone else. I can grow. I just want to keep trying. I am excited about all that I am doing now and want to continue to build on that, perhaps take up something more, like boxing, or learning Spanish! Who knows?! Longer term I am interested in doing a theatre course with Clean Break.

I would like to encourage others to do Psychology for Change and let them know how much I enjoyed it. It opens up opportunities, particularly if you have not been working or active for a while. I have developed a greater understanding of and firm foundation for myself and now I can choose my own direction in life.

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