Jamie-Lee McMillan (RLP Crafty Kids Manager) shares her inspirational personal journey and achievements over the past year and how she has overcome negative self-talk and pushed herself to take on new challenges.
In the last 12 months, my life has changed dramatically, and it hasn’t always been easy for me to cope. At times I have questioned if I am capable or good enough and struggled with my recovery from addiction.
In October of 2019 I had little responsibility: I was a walk leader with Forth Valley Recovery Community and had just began to take back control of my finances. In the first six months of my recovery I had relied on my mum and partner to support me with my finances as I was vulnerable to relapse as money was my biggest trigger. I thought it best to give my mum my bank cards and ask my partner to make sure bills were being paid. Once I took back those responsibilities, I remained open and honest with those around me of what I was spending money on and felt a sense of pride, being able to pay my bills on time and in full for the first time ever in my adult life.
By Christmas of the same year, my first while in recovery, I felt able to cope with family and friends drinking in front of me without having the urge to join them. I also began to take on more responsibility in my role as a Forth Valley Recovery Community member, helping at cafes, facilitating SMART meetings, attending regular community meetings, and taking and minutes of meetings. I was also working through the 12 Steps of NA and beginning to find more out about myself as an addict and person. And so, with the new year on the horizon, came the usual goal setting and resolutions. I wanted to do more for myself but wasn’t sure what, due to my struggles with my mental health, I found what I was already doing at times overwhelming. I had not been much of a people person throughout my addiction and the clearer my head was of drugs and alcohol, the more my past was creeping in to haunt me.
I found myself struggling with overwhelming anxiety and flashbacks of past traumas. The last thing I wanted to do was admit this, as I felt my Community Psychiatric Nurse would advise medication and it was not something I wanted to rely on again. I also felt that I would be judged by my peers and family members. I soon found out after openly speaking about these issues, that fellow community members had similar issues and had been through the same therapy I was awaiting. I wasn’t judged and could openly share how I felt at cafes and meetings and that this helped ease the anxiety. This was the first massive change I noticed, besides my recovery. I had never in my life felt as accepted as I did then. I had never truly trusted anyone and as daunting as it was the first time I spoke out, I soon found it to be comforting and I was able to relax. I was beginning to form true friendships and other healthy relationships for the first time in my life.
The new year came and went, and I began planning how I would propose to my now Fiancé. This was a big step for me, I have never asked nor wanted to ask anyone to marry me before, until I met Matt. I knew 2020 was leap year and February 29th is when women are traditionally ‘meant to’ ask their partner to marry them. I’m not usually one for tradition but something felt right about this date. So, with my mums help I was able to arrange a dinner together with all our family and friends present and go down on one knee and ‘pop the question’ to which he said yes.
In the new year, I noticed that the relationship between my mum and I had also changed for the better. I was now able to reach out to my mum, something I hadn’t done in recent years. I held resentments towards my mum for things in our past that neither of us can go back and change. I blamed a lot of my issues and addiction on my mum but was beginning to see that only I was responsible for my actions as an adult. Once I had worked through these realisations and difficult feelings, I was able to have and maintain a loving relationship with my mum; something I had longed for since being a child. I again was overcome with emotions surrounding this but with Matt’s (my Fiancé) help, I was able to cope with them and regulate them enough to go on as I had been, maintaining and building relationships.
Throughout this time, I had met the Resilience Learning Partnership team at an open day I attended with FVRC development workers. I arrived early and seen that the team needed some help setting up such a big venue, so I offered to help before I had even introduced myself. During lunch that day I was able to introduce myself to Shumela (managing director of RLP) and express my interest in the organisation. I struggle meeting new people and sharing my achievements, but I knew if I had any chance of becoming part of RLP on some level, I had to push through this anxiety and negative self-talk. Within a short space of time I was able to meet with Shumela privately and was invited to work on the hard edges project alongside other females in my community.
It was here I met Chelsea who was studying on the ‘Access to Degree Studies’ course at Stirling University. During our first workshop together Shumela suggested I apply for this course, beginning in August of 2020. Chelsea reassured me I was capable and expressed how much she had enjoyed the course and hoped to go on and study a degree in criminology. I went home that night excited at the prospect of applying to university, I shared this with my partner and family, and they were all very supportive. But then the negative self-talk came in, ‘why would you go to uni? You ruin every opportunity you have Jamie! Your too stupid to go to uni! You’re 32, that’s too old!’. I debated with myself for days and kept asking those around me their thoughts and feelings about me going to university. The only person with anything negative to say was me. I decided to apply and submit my application essay. My thinking was, the worst that can happen is I’m not successful and if that’s the case, I can continue doing what I’m doing now.
While awaiting the outcome of my application, lockdown hit and as I have described in other blogs, I struggled with emotions, anxiety and depression during the first weeks of full lockdown. With support from my partner and family I was able to pull myself away from the negativity and begin channelling these feelings into something positive. This is when RLP began the Crafty Kids Project. Without realising, I found myself managing the project and employed within a short space of time. With this came more doubt in myself and a lot of negative self-talk but Shumela was always encouraging as was the rest of the RLP team and my friends and family. I had gone from lying in bed crying and focusing on the negatives in my life, to managing a small team and producing craft boxes for children in my local community and beyond. I was employed for the first time in six years and when I allowed myself to, I was proud of such an achievement. I then when on to find out that I had been accepted onto the Access to Degree Studies course at Stirling University.
Before long FVRC had a vacancy for assistant recovery support workers and my family encouraged me to apply. I felt I wasn’t capable, that I wasn’t in recovery long enough. I struggled to see what a valued member of the recovery community I had become over the year I had been involved. I find I have always struggled to see the positives in myself, it is much easier to tell myself how bad I am at something or as a person, than it is to admit my achievements. Truth was, I had managed to stay away from all substances for over a year, become a volunteer, a SMART facilitator, a walk leader and an active member of Forth Valley Recovery Community. I had also shown myself I was capable of holding down part time employment in my managerial roll at RLP Crafty Kids. After reminding myself of this I applied for the job. Within a few weeks I had an interview, the first interview I had in over 8 years. I was very anxious and nervous before, during and after the interview. I gave it my all and remained as calm as I could throughout, I answered all questions to the best of my ability. Waiting to hear back was most nerve-wracking experience as I had gone from doubting myself to really wanting to be part of the FVRC team. Within two days I had a call back offering me a part time post. I was caring for my grandad when I received the call and couldn’t help but burst into tears of joy!
Today I find myself engaged to a loving and caring partner, working two part-time jobs with organisations I am passionate about and hold very dear to my heart, studying part-time and about to embark on EMDR therapy to deal with past trauma. Both FVRC and RLP have enabled my growth and development, helping me to reach my goals and true potential. I could not have dreamed I would be where I am today this time last year. I have now been the manager of the Crafty Kids Project for over 6 months, an Assistant Recovery Support worker with FVRC for 7 weeks and studying part-time at university since August. All very challenging but rewarding, there are still times where I doubt myself and capabilities, but I challenge these thoughts and feelings today by reminding myself how far I’ve come in the last 12 months! I find myself looking forward to the year ahead of me and feel ready to take on my therapy and any new challenges that come my way.
Change can be very daunting at times but without it, how else can we grow and reach our true potential? Anyone is capable of change with the right support and attitude.