A MOTHER-of-three whose 20 year drug addiction turned her into a prolific offender is hoping her battle to stay clean will help others in a similar situation.

Tanya East's descent into drugs began when she was 14 and started drinking heavily. She progressed from booze to cannabis, before moving on to harder drugs and, eventually, intravenous drug use.

At one time, the 38-year-old from Upton says she could not get through the day without using.

Her life became in her own words "chaotic and unmanageable". She was jailed in July 2008 for a string of offences.

When she was freed in November 2008, she once again began to use.

But when the courts threatened to permanently remove her two youngest children - Alfie East, 6, and Harry Gaston, 12, -Tanya realised she had to kick the habit.

She said: "I ended up living to use. My whole life revolved around getting drugs. My main priority was to buy drugs for myself. In prison I found it easy to stop using, but in prison you do not have any responsibility for your outside life.

"I came out of prison clean, but I got involved with a drug user. Low and behold, a few months later I was using again. That was when I had to make a big decision. I had lied to the drug testing people, but I decided to tell the court the truth.

"They extolled me for my honesty but they decided to start the process of formal adoption for my youngest son and putting my eldest son in full-time foster care."

Faced with that loss, Tanya researched rehabilitation centres and came across Focus 12 in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk. The charity runs a 12-step course for drug users.

"They gave me the tools and taught me how to take responsibility.

"Each of the 12 steps gives me a different way of dealing with my addiction. The first step was to admit I was powerless over the drugs."

The real challenge began when Tanya emerged from rehab to return to her Upton home. She knew she had to break from her old circle of friends if she was to stay clean.

She found support at a group for recovering drug addicts in St Neots and six months ago set a similar group up in Huntingdon.

After a long battle in the courts she was granted custody of her children in August last year.

Last month she was awarded a regional individual award by the National Institute of Adult Continuing Education after undertaking a raising children parenting course and a freedom programme to learn about breaking the cycle of domestic abuse.

She also talks about her experiences for workshops with the police, probation and drug agencies. From September she will be studying for an NVQ3 in voluntary support work.

She hopes to study for a degree in psychology or health and social care.

Tanya knows her battle is ongoing. "I have to do things on a daily basis to stop me from using. If I don't have anything to focus on, my old thinking comes back," she said.

"I am learning the skills now that I need to live in society. I have stopped using and I have become a productive member of society.