Kate Middleton moved by story of recovering alcoholic mother who turned her life around

The Duchess of Cambridge met Anna Elston, 43, while on a visit to an addiction counselling centre today. Kate heard how her three young sons were taken into care at the height of her drinking more than eight years ago.

But now Ms Elston trains volunteers to give empowering talks to teenagers. And yesterday she and fellow graduates received their foundation or degree certificates in addiction counselling.

They studied at the Centre for Addiction Treatment Studies in Warminster, Wiltshire, run by the charity Action on Addiction (the Duchess is its patron).

Ms Elston works as a co-ordinator for the Amy Winehouse Foundation’s resilience programme in Bournemouth – a drug and alcohol awareness and prevention initiative for secondary schools.

She said in her inspiring speech today: “If you had told me eight years ago that I would obtain a first-class honours degree in addiction counselling and be asked to deliver a speech to the Duchess of Cambridge, my mum, my three sons and about 100 other people, I simply would not have believed you.

“I didn’t believe a lot of things back then, when I was entrenched in active alcoholism. I didn’t believe that I could stay sober for more than one day.”

She described how, at the time, the youngest of her three sons – Jack, 13, Eddie, nine, and eight-year-old Dylan – was in neonatal intensive care “fighting for his life” after being born prematurely at 25 weeks, weighing 1lb 2oz.

After her speech, she said “I should be dead, if there weren’t people there for me”. Speaking about the Duchess’s reaction, she added: “She looked touched.”

During the visit, Kate chatted to some of the teaching staff. More than 200 students have graduated from the facility, which provides foundation and honours degree programmes accredited by the University of Bath.

Many have personal experience of substance abuse and other addictions or have a family member who has been an addict. The Duchess told Derrick Anderson, programme director at the centre, that those studying for degrees must get satisfaction out of being able to use their personal experiences of addiction.

She said: “It must be so powerful for them talking to patients who have gone through similar things.”

When she sat with foundation and degree graduates, the Duchess congratulated them: “It’s such a positive story for all of you.”

Ms Bache, who works with hoarders, some of whom might suffer with mental health issues such as OCD, said she recognised in Kate the same skills that they have been learning as counsellors.

The 30-year-old said: “She is so lovely and friendly. That is what we have to do as counsellors – we give people a voice and some tools. And the fact is she can talk to us in the same way.

“She’s incredibly warm – she’s a human being who inspires me. She shows empathy, the same empathy that I am aspiring to have.”