First off, relax.
A .38 is a fairly forgiving caliber and about the minimum for self defense. It sounds to me like you need some training in basic safety and operation of firearms. If there is an instructor there or if the range offers classes, sign up. That will get you safe and informed.
I guarantee that after a class in basic firearms, you will be more confident and comfortable. Then you will be able to practice correctly and build your skills.
It sounds like you were forced to jump into the deep end of the pool too soon. Take a step back and look into some instruction. The difference will be night and day.
We're on your side. Easy does it and you'll be fine. We were all beginners once.
If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest of freedom, go home from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains set lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen. ― Samuel Adams