Mar 16 2012 by Amanda Mckendrick, Lennox Herald (main ed)
A UNION leader has publicly apologised this week after being caught drink-driving.
West Dunbartonshire Unison convener Denise McLafferty was three times the legal alcohol limit and had two of her kids in the car when she was stopped by police in Dumbarton last Saturday afternoon.
This week the 46-year-old spoke of her shame at committing the crime which she says “abhors her” and bravely admitted she is an alcoholic.
She said: “Drink-driving is not something I would have imagined myself doing. You can’t get much lower.
“Even if I’d been on my own in the car, it’s still completely unacceptable.
“I had been drinking the night before and had taken the kids up to Levengrove Park in the morning and then drove up the road.
“Apparently someone phoned the police and reported me. I don’t know who but that’s irrelevant because I was completely wrong and making that call was the right thing to do.
“To a certain extent I think I’m grateful for it. It’s given me the wake-up call I needed to address my alcohol issues I know I have.
“I’m so thankful that nothing happened while I was driving under the influence.
“I was arrested on the Saturday and kept in custody until the Monday. It’s a cold, lonely place.
“I am so ashamed of myself for letting everyone down, especially my kids.”
The mum-of-three says she “sought solace” in alcohol after losing her father Eddie four-and-a-half years ago.
She said: “My dad was a big, big influence on my life. He was totally committed to the trade union movement and socialism.
“I got everything from my dad, I totally believed in everything he was about.
“I was devastated when he died. I couldn’t cope.
“Drinking was the only way I knew how to drown it out and make myself feel better.”
Denise says her problems were compounded when she became involved in a new relationship which was troubled.
The difficulties continued even after the couple separated three years ago and this former partner is set to stand trial at Dumbarton Sheriff Court in May on two charges relating to offences committed against Denise last year.
“When you have three glasses of wine everything goes away”, she said.
“I’ve been aware of it and been absolutely certain I had a drink problem and wanted to stop but I just didn’t know how to stop. I didn’t know how I would cope if I didn’t drink.
“My job was stressful, the usual stuff that goes on but I just wasn’t able to deal with it.
“The council tried to help me about a year ago. I was referred to occupational health.
“My reaction to them understanding that I maybe had a drink problem was that if they knew I did they would use it as a rod to break my back. I walked out of that meeting with a clean bill of health. I talked my way out of it and I think any alcoholic could do the same.
“I’m off work just now sick. They have been supportive and for that I’m grateful.
“I love my job and I’m good at it. I can only hope I don’t lose it through this.
“I have dealt with many staff over my time as a union representative and a large number of the cases I’ve dealt with have a link to alcohol or substance misuse.
“I’m very, very aware of the issue but drink just gets to you, drags you down, you can’t advocate for it.
“While I’ve been drinking I’ve sat and advised members that the best thing is to go to Dumbarton Area Council on Alcohol (DACA) or the AA – but wasn’t prepared to take my own advice.”
Denise says she knows she must now tackle her drinking or fears it will kill her.
She added: “If I don’t say ‘no’ now I won’t be sitting here in six months’ time.
“If I keep drinking I will be dead. My liver is healthy but my blood isn’t. It can’t handle the toxins from the alcohol.
“How could two young kids deal with losing their mum, knowing that she had drank herself to death? Psychologically that’s the biggest thing for me. That’s why I need to say this is it.
“I haven’t had a drink since last weekend. I’m going to DACA and I’m committed to a programme for the next six months. The only way I’m going to fix this is by talking through it, dealing with it myself and by not drinking.”
If you have a problem with alcohol and want to speak to someone contact DACA on 01389 731456 or the AA helpline on 0845 769 7555.