By Jessamine Gibb
In my years of case management and coaching, I have worked with many people with what you might call colorful backgrounds: drug and alcohol addiction, homelessness, criminal histories, untreated mental illness, long-term unemployment and anger management issues. They are the kinds of things that are highly stigmatized in most segments of society.
While we all have to take responsibility for ourselves as much as we are capable when we reach adulthood, rarely have I met a person who ended up with seriously dysfunctional behavior who did not have a series of traumatic or difficult events in their early life—and I’ve worked with thousands of people throughout my career.
Often, these people felt marked for life by their current or recent situation, set apart from “respectable society” with little chance for redemption. They felt unworthy to move in different social circles or in different environments, which was a huge impediment to them progressing in life. It takes a lot of strength and courage to do what can be required, say in the instance of drug addiction, where you might have to sever almost every relationship currently in your life. In that circumstance in particular, people’s lives and relationships start to revolve wholly around drugs and most friendships cannot be salvaged unless other friends are looking to recover also.
What is often missing from their understanding of how life works is that they always have choice. Yes, some people will reject you because of a snooty attitude or because they’re legitimately concerned your desire to change your life is not sincere, but that is not true of everyone.
You must take the risks involved in making positive change, and in doing so you will find out who is willing to take a risk on you.
At one point in my career I was responsible for supporting and placing into employment people with complex issues that got in the way of them finding and keeping work. I met a lot of employers through this experience who were willing to take on people with all kinds of backgrounds—as long as they felt a person was dedicated to making a genuine change. These employers were willing to make financial, time and energy sacrifices for people who they knew would need more support in the beginning of their employment; they anticipated from the beginning there would be hiccups. Such kind and giving people exist in the world, and they’re not as rare as it sometimes seems.
When you find someone willing to take a risk on you, it’s important to do everything you can not to let that person down. Try not to let the saying “no good deed goes unpunished” be proven in your case. Be open and honest with the people who have made themselves vulnerable to you. Let them know if things start going wrong before crisis hits. Don’t hold onto your pride so tightly that no one can help you. Kind and loving people are always willing to help where they can, even if it’s just listening to you for 10 minutes. And sometimes that listening ear will make all the difference for you in that moment.
Seek whatever help might be best for your circumstance, whether it’s general life coaching, recovery coaching, a psychologist or psychiatrist, a support group or a customized combination of these. Become self-aware and responsible. Undertake the difficult work with relevant support to really face up to yourself and grow. If you have medical circumstances that interfere with your progress, discuss these with your doctor and commit to a management plan, which might be medication, exercise, improved sleep routines, relaxation exercises, diet or a combination of different strategies. If there is a problem face up to it, it won’t go away just because you ignore it. Identify your motivating factors to change your life, what you really value. Identify your triggers for negative behaviors, and get ahead of yourself by planning what you will do to avoid or cope with triggering situations.
Once you’ve committed to the unavoidable heavy work, you can start to find the silver linings in your situation. For me and many clients I’ve worked with, their experiences and the consequential deeper understanding and empathy they’ve developed have pushed them towards wanting to be in a helping role for people facing similar battles. Other people, through discussing their struggles with a coach or a psychotherapist, discovered their inner strength was in reality much more than they had realized, and that propelled them on to other dreams for the future they had previously thought unrealistic.
Changing your life is HARD, whether you find yourself at the bottom of a deep ravine or one of life’s potholes, but while you’re still living and breathing it is always possible. All it takes is dedication, the right support and time. And if you have been in that deep ravine don’t worry, you’re not marked for life. If a reasonable person sees a sustained effort to live life differently over a long enough period of time, they will understand. And at least no one can claim you’ve had a boring life!
I personally have a decent amount in common with many of my clients with more dramatic histories, and I’m open about it. I see it as a positive because I turned it into a positive. I chose to change my life, and instead of hiding my past I use it as my secret weapon, which allows me to work with clients with more challenging issues who might intimidate other coaches.
The bottom line: never give up on yourself, or the world. There is more out there for you if you chose to take it. The power really is in your hands, and many have successfully walked the path you are about to take.
Jessamine Gibb is a confidence, self-love and recovery coach with Master Coach level training, as well as a BA in Sociology. Additionally, she is an associate member of the Career Development Association of Australia, a member of Counselling Tasmania Incorporated and a member of Recovery Coaches International. Jessamine is on a mission to help over-achievers and perfectionists with low self-esteem value themselves and reach their dreams while avoiding burnout and procrastination. She knows how to combat the impostor syndrome that makes so many gifted people feel like frauds. Her style is approachable and nurturing but she also develops the rapport required to call clients to account when they are neglecting their self-care and stagnating in pursuit of their goals.
Having a background in mental health case management she is equipped to work with clients who are maintaining their mental wellness while pursuing their goals. She works via Skype, web chat via coach.me and phone to be available to clients worldwide. Find out more at http://achievecoaching.com.au/.