A NEW back-of-buses ad campaign aims to reach struggling alcoholics and offer them support when it launches in Swindon next week.

Alcoholics Anonymous’ We Can Help poster campaign can be seen around town from Monday. One of the people overseeing the launch, who wished to be known as Peter W, has personally experienced how the group can bring those suffering in silence back from the brink.

Peter, 78, said: "I stole my family’s piece of mind for several years and covered up my alcohol use with a lot of deceit and lies. I drove under the influence while my kids were in the car, I split with my first wife because of my drinking problem.

"Rock bottom for me was a lot of 'yet's: I've not lost my job yet, I've not lost my driving licence yet, I'm not in a coffin yet.

"Many people progress from happy social drinking into harmful dependent drinkers and then, if no affirmative action is taken, become hazardous drinkers which sadly means they won’t be around in a few months’ time."

Of the 380,000 people in Wiltshire aged 16 or over, 18,000 show signs of dependant drinking but only 1,200 of them seek help.Alcoholics Anonymous has more than 40 free meetings a week at 30 different locations in 25 towns and villages around the county, with just under 400 members.

Around 7,000 people die directly or indirectly from alcohol related reasons in England each year - 20 deaths every single day.

Peter added: "For the first 30 years of my relationship with alcohol I could take it or leave it, I was just a casual drinker, then the next 10 years featured happy drinking with consequences, and the years after that were all consequences. I became a functioning alcoholic.

"After years of denial, I finally admitted that I had a problem with alcohol and joined AA. The group acted as mutual aid to help people like me stop drinking and stay sober - and it worked."

AA is self-supporting from contributions from its own members and receives no outside funding. It says that many people who outwardly-appear to have normal and happy lives are often secretly struggling with alcohol dependency.

Local AA members help people in their community who are suffering from an alcohol problem and they are keen to raise awareness of local AA support groups through campaigns like this new bus advertising campaign..

The group works with healthcare professionals, social services,probation and prison services and 999 crews to provide support to its members through a network of peer support and partner agencies.

The local AA helpline is available round-the-clock every day of the year on 01380 729064. Visit alcoholics-anonymous.org.uk