LIKE many women of her generation, Gina Easom spent her youth caught up in the ladette drinking culture of the 1990s.

"Young women were encouraged to drink like men - binge-drinking became a way of life," says Gina. “During my twenties, I was a functioning mother in parallel with being an habitual binge-drinker. It took its toll, physically and emotionally. I trudged through days with hangovers, anxiety and mood swings, and panicked at the prospect of attending any event without alcohol.

"I didn't hit 'rock bottom' - I belonged to a grey area somewhere between 'normal' drinking and alcoholism."

In her late thirties, Gina looked long and hard at her drinking. "I was approaching 40 and thought, 'Why am I harming myself every weekend?' I did 'dry January' then set myself limits on nights out, but no-one else was doing that so I'd end up drinking too much then hating myself. It was a constant battle, eventually I decided it was better just not to drink."

Now the mum-of-two, from Burley-in-Wharfedale, has launched an online therapy service helping women tackle alcohol problems. "Statistics show that women are rapidly gaining equality with men when it comes to hard drinking," says Gina. "Alcohol is one of the three biggest lifestyle risks in the UK, after smoking and obesity."

A qualified psychotherapist, Gina set up Holla & Heard. “There are services for people whose drinking is out of control, who have lost jobs and relationships, but there's a gap for targeting the grey area I was in," she says. "Women are judged more on their drinking, they feel ashamed to admit they have a problem in case they're seen as a bad mother, so they stay quiet. Women drink for different reasons to men - drinking alone at home is often a coping mechanism, when balancing a job and a family."

With 'wine o'clock' posts on social media, and pre-Christmas TV ads gearing us up for the party season, it can be difficult to avoid booze. "I've even seen a 'yoga class with prosecco' advertised!" says Gina. "Women who started drinking when I did are now in their 30s and 40s. We don't yet know the longterm effects of that. I'm 41 and, while I have no serious health conditions I wish I'd tackled it much earlier.

"I didn’t have the time or inclination to attend a group, and group sessions don't suit everyone. The therapy I offer enables women to be open about their drinking, giving help at a time when it's needed.”

Gina's Skype, FaceTime and Whatsapp video calls offer flexible, personal support. Her 50-minute sessions can be booked at 24 hours notice. "It's one-to-one therapy, we look at why a drinking problem started, patterns it takes. It fits in with a busy lifestyle; just logging onto a laptop. There are massive waiting lists of other kinds of therapy."

This week is Alcohol Awareness Week, focusing on the impact of drinking on family life. Having worked within a mental health crisis team at the NHS and as a teacher, Gina has seen firsthand the devastating effects of alcohol abuse on families. "There's a strong likelihood of children repeating parents' drinking behaviour," she says. "I've worked with children with emotional problems from homes where alcohol was a factor. When my son turned 14, the age I was when I I had my first drink, it dawned on me that he might think heavy drinking was normal.

"My aim is preventative; showing there's an alternative healthy lifestyle. If we go to a slimming group and lose weight, we're praised. But if we stop drinking, people say: 'What are you doing?' There are successful, functioning women, drinking too much, who are 'hidden'. There's a lot of denial with drinking; it's easy to lie to yourself.

"So often I've seen the impact drinking has had on the lives and relationships of functioning, professional women, and their productivity. It's all too easy to get out of control.

“With Holla & Heard I want it to be normal to address this, like unhealthy eating or smoking, without judgement, and offer the tools and techniques to help women make changes.”

Adds Gina: "I didn't realise how tired I was until I stopped drinking. I have so much more energy. I used to spend Sundays recovering on the sofa, eating comfort food. Now I walk my dogs, I do yoga, I have lots of time to fill."

* Visit