AN addiction counsellor is launching a new café aimed at helping those recovering from drug, substance abuse and alcohol.

The group’s founder Ann Gardner said the weekly drop-in sessions are open to everyone but especially those suffering from addictions, along with their families and friends.

The 61-year-old mother-of-two and grandmother-of-six from Holland-on-Sea has experience of addiction herself and has been in recovery for more than 12 years.

She said: “I started drinking and smoking with friends in my teens as I had such low self esteem and drinking meant I could have confidence to be part of the social scene at the time.

“Years later I started drinking at home after a stressful day at work and the one glass of wine soon became a bottle every evening. I was still managing to get to work and look after my children and the home.

“The progression of the illness of alcoholism took several years for me to reach my rock bottom.

“I started having black outs where I couldn’t remember what I had done when I was drinking.

“I didn’t drink daily, but when I did drink I drank to excess and was a binge drinker.

“I did not think I was an alcoholic as at the time in my mind an alcoholic sits on a park bench drinking from a bottle wrapped in brown paper.

“Of course, my understanding now is that in today’s society it also affects women who are trying to be super women at home, working and looking after children and are trying to cope.

“My drinking affected my marriage and my relationship with my children and friends and I realised that I needed to seek help as it was controlling my life.

“For me, my husband, daughters and grandchildren my life is so much better in recovery.” Mrs Gardner now hopes to help others.

She said “There are facilities and services for homeless people in Clacton, but I want to be able to help get people into recovery before they reach rock bottom.

“I feel this community needs a project like this to offer help and to act as a signpost where they can come along to talk openly and receive help.

“It will be open to everybody suffering from addiction.

“Addiction must be treated like any other disease, without stigma and shame but with kindness and hope.”

Tendring Council chairman Dan Land has backed the project.

He said: “I know the difficulties of addiction and the effects it can have on people’s lives.

“Any service like this is a lifeline to people in the community.”

The Recovery Café will be open at the Baptist Church in Frinton Road, Holland-on-Sea, 2pm to 4pm, from Monday.