Ever since I can remember I've found it difficult to cope. An erratic childhood paved the way for some very wild teenage antics, which in turn fast-tracked me into at times chaotic adult living. Years of self-harm via the pharmaceutical route were coupled with a furious drink problem taking its toll in every aspect of my life. Realising this half way through my 30s I managed to kick the drugs and reduce the boozing to what I thought was an acceptable level. But I still didn't feel like I was living my life. In fact, I knew I wasn't.
And by the time I turned 40 I realised I'd failed and that the only person who was missing out, was me.
A few months on I learned about a brand new woman’s networking group - over a perfectly innocent coffee with a girlfriend. 'A network to enable women to be the women they want to be.' “Really?” It sounded exactly like what I needed!
I found out it was, right at the first ever 'Driven Woman Introduction' session. My new journey started that night in a stark white, no-frills meeting room above Ed's Diner in Soho where this small group of women of varied backgrounds had gathered.
The format was well thought out and straight forward. Introduce yourself, say why you’re here and what you wanted to change, (this is where the rest of the group could give feedback). Followed by an exercise and a brief discussion. After that we were to write down 'where we were at now' and 'where we wanted to be,' both long and short-term. Lastly, we wrote down five easy tasks that would help us achieve our short-term goal. These tasks needed to be achievable and they were to be done by the next month's meeting. We managed to get this all done in a little over two hours... not a bad way to spend your Monday night.
The months rolled by, I attended without fail and steadily worked the program. It was emotional, I was emotional. I swung from deliriously happy in one month to abject terror the following. I burst into tears once and the rest of the time rambled on heroically. All the time the group listened on and told me what they thought. They questioned my motives with care and consideration and in turn I questioned my beliefs. There was no sympathy, just good advice to enable me to do better. They handed me the tools, guided by the exercises we were doing, and I began to help myself. I was not allowed to procrastinate and any excuses I came up with were met with comments such as “if you want to do it you will, we've shown you the way, you cannot go wrong if you try”.
Everything happened rather quickly, and naturally. My 'change' became noticeable and people started commenting: “you're so good at that” and “I wish I could do that”. I started to do things well, and I was getting things done. I was astounded. And best of all it was fun!
From early on, one of my 'to do' tasks that would allow me to reach my short-term goals had been to reduce my drinking. I'd been writing this down for eight months before I plucked up the courage to actually do something about it. Finally I did — and managed to slow right down from being drunk most days to a few glasses of wine a couple of times a week.*
This was 'living my very own miracle', we're talking biblical proportions here.
So where am I now, two years into my own personal DrivenWoman program?
Well I'm sober for the first time in three decades. I've started kick boxing as I always wanted to do a martial art ever since I watched the 'Monkey'. My business is gathering momentum, I've got repeat orders. I've started creative writing which had always been a secret passion. Finally, and this is the big one, I'm looking to find a long-term relationship with someone I truly love.** This would not have been possible before as I could never have shared the life I was leading with anyone!
If someone told me two years ago that I would become the person I am now, I would not have believed it. But here I am... so much can happen in two years!
I can't imagine what the next five or ten years will hold in store. Anything seems possible with a little help from my DrivenWoman girlfriends!
~ Jane, a founding member of DrivenWoman, a women's network that celebrates its 2nd birthday next month
*Giuliano Sacchi, who practices Japanese acupuncture has been my therapist for the last year.
** with the help from Julia Keller, Love Expert (also a DrivenWoman member)