Today is Friday 20th November, the date is relevant because during a session with Jonathan I was asked, by the chief himself to write a 5-year plan.
While digging around for an appropriate note-book (since eliminating alcohol from my life i've developed a slight stationary obsession, so the notebook needed to be appropriate- sparkly and inviting).
I found an old diary from exactly a year ago. I was working with Jonathan at the time and each day I was to make an entry and start with drawing a pair of glasses; the glasses were to resemble how I was viewing my mood at the time. For example;
Clear glasses = feeling good/positive/strong,
Frosted glasses = feeling a bit flat/anxious/a bit vulnerable
Tinted glasses = a bad day/very anxious/restless/urge to escape my head/low mood/volatile.
This was a good exercise to do in order to stop me focusing on all the negatives, accept situations and do something about it, put a positive flip on it and learn from it.
At first I thought it was a bit silly but it started to help me and I could see what I was doing, when I had a good day and made me realise that I was actually having some good days. I suppose I started to appreciate my good days and there's light at the end of this dark, lonely tunnel. It also helped me to reflect on the day and encourage a more logic way of thinking.
So, on Thursday 21st November 2019 I was in early stages of recovery, very vulnerable and I'd only been out of detox about 4 weeks.
"Woke up 9am, no rush to get ready. Pottered and made buns for a charity event (no idea what this occasion was) *insert clear glasses*. 10am *insert total shaded glasses* Barry (my sons Dad, it's not his actual name) text to say Bob (my son but also not his actual name) is staying at his Christmas Eve in a really blunt, dictating way, after I has asked if he could stay with me.
I started panicking, couldn't breath, cried and rang my Mum. She said they would sort it, I managed to avoid a panic attack. I'm scared, because if he doesn't stay, I don't know how I'd deal with it. I remember how I felt at the time, the urge was to drink to lose myself from my feelings, and I was genuinely worried about my safety, I was capable of anything.
I feel it's my turn to have him as I in hospital over last Christmas but "Barry" said it wasn't, I don't think that’s fair. I rang Morag (she was my amazing community mental health nurse) and she said to enjoy the time I have with him, which is true...make new memories.
I have since reflected on this and I can now see his reason behind why that's this years arrangement (see...diary writing has a way of making you realise your original impulsive thinking isn't logical). I have no idea how Bob was while I was confined to hospital for all those months, Barry has been there for him over the past year, done the hard work while i've been AWOL. I feel I am trying so hard to rebuild everything, be the good mum Bob deserves. I suppose it is good that I want that, I can't change the past, I didn't chose that path. I have to live with the devastation I caused. But the past is where it stays. 5pm, saw Bob and he had his tea, he was very good." *clear glasses.
In all honesty I had forgotten how powerful and eye-opening writing thoughts and feelings down is, it takes the metaphorical blinkers off your thinking. I can see exactly where my defensive "woe is me" attitude instantly kicked in through reading that past entry (if he was there in person, I would have totally lost it) and as I had a bit of time to calm down, I took a more logical view on the situation.
This dairy entry also demonstrates that reaching out to people when you are in a crisis is vital, helpful and there's nothing to be ashamed of. People want to help. They would much rather you reach out than the potential alternative (e.g. relapse). It's also so important to look back and acknowledge progress.
Back then I took every day as it came, planning ahead was out of the question. Here I am devising a 5-year plan (we do recover!!).
So back to the reason why I was asked to devise a 5-year plan. In the session with Big Jonny our opening conversation went a bit like this (to set the scene, Jonathan was in his usual attire-suit, cuff links, groomed salt and pepper hair etc. I on the other hand was donning my dressing gown, not even looked in the mirror that morning nor had I run a brush through my hair.
"How are you today, Jen"?
"Jonathan....I'm bored, fed up of this lockdown and fed up of not being able to see anyone. I like people nowadays".
After discussing the weeks’ events (which will be a separate blog I'm currently working on), Jonathan asked me to write a 5-year plan. I agreed, not really thinking it was a big deal. However, he brought it to my attention that it will be very significant, my mind was ready to plan and I was ready for more challenges hence the bored feeling. Previously I took every day as it came, made no future plans (this is a good thing and vital for early recovery) as pre-recovery my life was chaotic, I was volatile and in and out of hospital.
I tried booking things when my drinking and eating was steady, however subconsciously it must have been too much for me because as the events got nearer, I'd end up drinking into an oblivion. Or, if I did manage to attend (this only happened once), I ended going home early as I drank too much.
There were a number of occasions where I would book events, spas for me and my friends, theatre break for me and my mum, even arranged a trip to Ibiza as I was maid of honour. All of which I would pull out of, or, have to go home early due to my excessive drinking. It wasn’t a pleasant time.
I want to share this with you, so you can get to understand how a person can reach such low points, yet whilst they are in the mist of mayhem, they don’t really understand the havoc and upset they are causing. It’s not intentional, it’s just your mindset at that time.
So, at first when you are on the road to recovery, taking each day, one step at a time it’s vital to ensure you don’t overload yourself.
I didn't know where to start with a 5-year plan, so I did a bit of research online and there is a lot more to it than writing a little list of things you want to happen. I really advise that you consider devising one if you feel able to.
I then remember I had Jonathan’s book “How To Build On Tectonic Plates”. Part of which helps you break down your plan, both mentally and financially, so you can program your mind on a deep routed level and evoke your emotional drive!
I realised that planning a 5-year period of aims goals and aspirations, not only allowed me to make improvements to my life, but also improve/maintain existing goals and appreciate the good things I already have.
As I researched, I was planning my personal plan I realised that written down in front of me was what was important to me, minus distractions. As I started writing, other values popped up which I may have overlooked or taken for granted if it was just a plan in my head. I could also return to my ideas if other ideas came up and recap to eliminate some things that were not as important as first thought.
I'm going to bullet point my other findings as I'm running out of different words to use for "ideas".
Reasons why I found it useful to devise a plan, and encourage others who are confidently able to make future plans, to do so too ......
I am now in a strong position to make future plans, so it is exciting and maybe making a plan would ensure I kept "my eyes on the prize", focused and that I wasn't venturing into the unknown.
I realised it was more than a "to do list", as I first thought. 5 years is a nice time to make realistic changes and also enough time for the time scale of goals to be flexible (i.e lengthening/shortening).
I thought I'd learnt quite a lot about myself recently, but I found out more of who I wanted to be, what I wanted to do career wise, what I wanted in my future and realised my visions, ambitions and values.
I could think of a more logical way of reaching my goals by assessing my strengths, making use of them and being honest about what I needed to work on (this worked for my personal and career goals).
It broke everything down into simpler steps so it wouldn't seem like a mountain, which would have put me right off. It now looked more manageable and achievable.
I can now look back and see if I'm on track, both with the steps and reaching my goals. Also making adjustments along the way as we all know life isn't plain sailing.
If I'm not making progress it would be easier to work out why.
You can use templates for a 5 year plan, but I actually enjoyed creating my own (my stationary addiction came in handy, my 5 year plan is very colourful and nice to look at). On a more serious level it is unique to me, my personal circumstances and my individual values. Everyone's will be different.
I visualised my realistic, ideal future (where, what and why to maintain). It was like an epiphany (well-what I’d like to think was an epiphany), an epiphany of what truly makes me happy, NOT what I think is expected of me (if I went by other people’s expectations, I messed that up decades ago).
After doing this whole exercise I was content and confident with the path my life will hopefully go. I had tangible goals that I feel I could achieve in a real way along with the steps to get there and keep me on track. Its more specific, broken down and gives me confidence that I can actually achieve it.
The reasoning behind this blog and sharing all this is because if you are in a similar stage of recovery, or even know someone who is reaching out for help (maybe further on or it's still early days), I totally understand. Sharing what's helped me (e.g.-daily journal writing) may give you hope, ideas, or just reassurance with what you may be going through, re recovery, is normal, it's not easy but it's worth it.
I also wanted to put across that it's important to take each day as it comes but living like that is not forever, I had to get my mind and physical health strong enough to take on bigger challenges. At first I even found taking each day as it came extremely hard, but now that's not enough, my mind is ready for long term goals.
It's taken me over a year to achieve what I thought was impossible. Hard graft but totally worth it. I'm so thankful to Jonathan and for what feels like a replanning of my mind. The old guy knows what he's talking about!!!
I've probably said this before but I'm living proof that we do recover but it takes time (there's a reason it takes time), it's totally worth it and you CAN turn what seems like the impossible into possible. The phrase I used to think was a load of bull, but I know otherwise!
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