A FEW years ago Kate Furer was a single mother with a drink problem, living on benefits with her disabled daughter.

Today, she has a beautifully unique child, the beginnings of a successful business, a positive outlook and she hasn’t had a drink for two years.

Kate, 39, from Oswaldtwistle, had an aromatherapy qualification, but after falling pregnant 11 years ago, never set up the business she’d dreamed of.

When her daughter Rachel was born, her mother knew something wasn’t right, but it took several years for the diagnosis to be confirmed that she had Asperger Syndrome, a form of autism, that affects how a person makes sense of the world, processes information and relates to other people.

“I found it very difficult to cope and I suffered with depression. I started drinking. I made a complete mess of myself. I found difficulty working and maintaining a relationship so I left my partner. I couldn’t look after myself or my daughter, or even our pet rabbit. I weighed seven stones because I wasn’t eating. I was killing myself. My family had to step in. My recovery has been a long process, but I’m getting there.”

Despite all that, Kate realised that everyday cleaning products were having an adverse effect on her daughter’s senses.

“She has a hypersensitive sense of smell and she loved the smell of washing powder, but when she smelled it she became hyper and started eating her clothes. The effect on her was awful.

“So I started making my own fragrance-free version and I started to see an improvement straight away. She was a lot happier. In fact, these days if I walk down the washing powder aisle in the supermarket I start to sneeze because I’m so used to my own fragrance-free products.”

An interview with Work Solutions set Kate on the road to recovery. “I was asked what I could do, what I was interested in, what qualifications I already had and what my dreams were. The concept of Clean and Green Recovery was born.

“As a fully qualified advanced aromatherapist I had made my own soaps and cleaning products from real fruit because I don't like chemical nasties around my house. It was the natural thing to do to launch my own range.”

Kate received a grant for £3,750 via Lancashire User Forum and the charity Red Rose Recovery who helped her manage her drink problem while guiding her through setting up a new business and contributing in the community.

She sells Clean and Green Recovery Products from a permanent unit on Accrington market five days a week and has extended the range into beauty, specialising in chemical and parabens-free products using essential oils. Lip balms, antiseptic hand gels, body butters, moisturisers, toners and cellulite gel are some of the products she makes.

“It’s all about realising a feeling of self worth. That is what is lacking in a lot of people and that’s why they turn to drink and drugs, some out of boredom and isolation. Now I look forward to coming to work in the morning.”

Kate is also using her journey and talents to help others who are struggling in life. She recently told her story to 500 delegates at a meeting and there was hardly a dry eye in the house.

“I am so into environmental issues, recycling and craft that I am always being asked to do classes, make things and join in events in my area. I am also very passionate about recovery and have made many wonderful, inspirational friends whilst on my journey. I love to give people the chance to learn and find out what they are good at.

“Some just like to have something to do, some find craft very therapeutic. The fact that I promote and sell their crafts and artwork in my shop all helps towards their self esteem, confidence and hope.

“I have been promoting the concept of Clean and Green, and it has been very well received. I have made quite an impression – people call me the soap lady. One of the things I love about my market unit is I have no shortage of visitors and volunteers. Many recovery project ideas have been born there.

“A strong sense of belonging has arisen from ‘the little shop of miracles’ and we are very well thought of in the market hall.

“I want to expand this work to the benefit of everyone affected by drug and alcohol issues, including parents, children, friends and anyone who wants to support us.”

See redroserecovery.org.uk