Burton Addiction Centre boss Noreen Oliver has revealed that at one point she was drinking a bottle of gin a day and was hospitalised with cirrhosis of the liver.
She was speaking candidly about her battle with alcohol and how she has turned her life around and is determined to help others.
She was speaking at a 'Meet the Leader' event, the third one organised by the Burton Mail and Else Solicitors.
Mrs Oliver is the chief executive officer of the Burton Addiction Centre and holds an MBE for her work.
Meet the Leader comprises a series of events when people can meet top business bosses from around Burton and listen to them speak openly about their lives. They are presented as a question and answer session with host, Dave Bryon.
She spoke of the path her career has taken to get to where she is now, along with key pieces of advice to those in the audience, at The Mulberry, at Burton and South Derbyshire College in the town.
The first event, in November, saw more than 70 young professionals turn out to hear from Burton Albion Football Club chairman, Ben Robinson and manager, Nigel Clough.
Medical bosses from Burton Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, the body that oversees Queen's Hospital in Burton were up second in the January event.
They were Magnus Harrison, the medical director of the trust and lead nurse, Paula Gardner, who both revealed how finding a perfect working and home life balance is key to being happy, both professionally and personally.
Mrs Oliver, 57, holds a post-graduate degree in marketing from the chartered institute of marketing.
She has worked in a number of different industries, primarily revolving around the healthcare sector.
But, at the age of 16, she started drinking and suffered from alcoholism for many years, beginning with her first detox treatment at the age of 25.
By 1992, at the age of 31, she was drinking a bottle of gin a day and was hospitalised with cirrhosis of the liver.
"I think your alcohol starts off as your friend," Mrs Oliver explained, "then starts to destroy you. I couldn't make a phone call without having a drink in my hand.
"Even when I was drinking, I was working for a while. I remember, in my office I had a can of Special Brew in my draw and I honestly believed people that I was working with did not know that I had a drinking problem.
"That is the denial that you go into. Of course they knew, I came back from lunch, and I smelt of alcohol. When you've got an alcohol problem, the toxins can't kick out, so you're drinking on yesterday’s alcohol.
"There was the stale alcohol smell as well. It was probably the last year that I became seriously ill and that my pancreas packed up and to today doesn't produce insulin. It's all from alcohol.
"It still didn't stop me from doing the work, when you put yourself in the role of a leader, it’s a huge responsibility. At the Burton Addiction Centre we've got 134 wages to think about, when you get there as a leader you realise that actually, this is on my head.
"I think I was always going to do something different and be a rebel."
Mrs Oliver quit drinking in 1993, and in 1998 she set up the Burton Addiction Centre in Station Street, Burton, to help rehabilitate others.
It is now rated among the best centres of its kind across the country, with the UK average for patients still be abstained after a number of years of treatment being 30 per cent, while the Burton Addiction Centre is at 74 per cent for drug users.
Mrs Oliver was even made an MBE in 2009 for services to disadvantaged people across Staffordshire.
She explained that it is her upbringing in an Irish household that set her up for a life in management.
"When I was young, my parents had a nursing home, and we didn't actually get pocket money, we had to work in the home on a Saturday morning and Sunday morning until midday and then we’d get paid for that.
"You don't get anything for nothing, you have to work for it. We were quite a different family really.
"My mother influenced me, she came over from Ireland and trained to be a mental health nurse then she did the general nursing.
"Then she had a nursing home. On top of that, she had five children, one of whom is severely disabled, he's blind and can't hear and then you've got the two rebels, myself and my brother.
"We both ended up having rehab, which is quite strange and then the two good children. Coming from an Irish family, you drink a lot anyway, but we were taught to be fiercely independent, particularly as girls.
"We knew at an early age how to change a plug, all sorts of things like that. She wanted us to be fiercely independent and I think I did various jobs.
"In 1983, I was the director of patient services at such a young age of a private hospital. It was mainly cosmetic surgery.
"I don't think I was ever going to be a sheep, I always wanted to lead. I always wanted to be doing something different. I worked damn hard.
"I think my mother was a huge inspiration. She said you can do whatever you want to do if you put your mind to it.
"She would say to never ask someone to do something that you wouldn't do yourself and I stick by that.
"I remember when the BAC first started we had two rooms, but we didn't have a cleaner. I was cleaning the loos and a lady came in, used them and left.
"I didn't know who she was because there were other offices in the building. I went down to my office and sat in there as the chief executive. Then the same woman walked in and said 'you've just been cleaning the loos', she told me after that she was the commissioner for social care in Staffordshire.
"She said that it really had an effect that I would do that."
The next 'Meet the Leaders' is on Thursday, May 3 with CEO of Clinigen Group, Shaun Chilton and Paul Faulkner, CEO of Birmingham Chamber of Commerce Group.
This is run from 5.30pm until 7.30pm at the Mulberry Restaurant at Burton and South Derbyshire College. To book your free ticket, visit online at http://elsesolicitors.eventbrite.com.