In this blog, Michelle Sherriff talks about her experiences on the ICM GROW traineeship programme, based at Back on Track.
She explores digital inclusion, overcoming dyslexia and barriers to work, and talks openly about her own inspirational recovery journey, and how she is using her personal lived experience to support others.
Hi, my name is Michelle Sheriff I am GROW trainee at Back on Track. I was very nervous and was full of anxiety when I started my traineeship and had very little confidence on the computer. During the first few months of my placement I was supported to do some tests and came to learn that I was Dyslexic and had Dyscalculia too. This was such a big revelation for me, for years I’d just thought it was me. After this had come to light, Back on Track and ICM helped arrange for the DWP to carry out an Access to Work assessment which helped us to know what equipment and training would benefit me and make working life easier. I was recommended to download Dragon software which helps me narrate text rather than typing it, and we had started to arrange some training to support me and my learning. Then lockdown came and it all came to a halt as I left the office and began working from home.
This has been another big learning stage for me because of the need for me to use technology all day every day to do my work. With support I can now copy and paste, do emails and I’ve done countless Zoom calls and video team meetings on several different platforms. It has been frustrating at times, but I genuinely feel it has changed my life. I just keep practicing, and with the support I’ve had from colleagues, trainers and an IT coach, I’ve been so surprised at how amazing technology is. If you’d have said to me before lockdown that I’d be spending my days at a computer, video conferencing, installing software, doing online training etc, I’d have told you it was impossible and I couldn’t do it. But I’ve improved so much in my confidence that at least now, I’m willing to give anything a go!
I am also a member of alcoholics anonymous and recently I reached the milestone of being seven years sober. In such difficult times, I’m passing the message on to all people in recovery, as well as ICM and Back on Track members I work with, that a 12-step program can and does work, whether it be AA or NA. Recently I have put myself forward to sponsor one of the members at ICM on their recovery journey, because I wanted to be able to share what I’ve learned and offer support from someone who has lived it and understands how difficult it is. I started my recovery seven years ago in Styal Prison, where I got an education and then went straight into rehab. I have now lived in my own flat for five years with my daughter. I really hope to be able to encourage others to learn about the 12-step programme which has helped me so enormously, it feels like its something I can start to give back to others.
I started with ICM three years ago when I became a Peer Mentor with Community Led Initiative. During this time, I went for a GROW Traineeship job and ended up not getting it the first-time round. I was so disappointed, that I didn’t get the job, but I said at the time ‘I’m not giving up until I get the GROW job!’ When I finally got it in June 2019 it changed my whole life. With hard work and a fair few frustrations along the way I have learned so much and will be forever grateful for all the support along the way. I will soon be starting a new job as a recovery worker and will miss everyone so much. I believe that anyone can do this, it’s just about keeping on turning and trying new things – so keep going and don’t doubt how far you can go.