In the Driver’s License Restoration section of this blog, my various articles examine every aspect and facet of the License Appeal process in sometimes microscopic and painful detail. There is, of course, a method to my madness. I know that it is precisely that attention to detail that has resulted in my winning 184 out of the last 186 License Appeals I have filed (giving me a win rate of 98.92%), since I began really keeping track back in about June of 2009. It is also this attention to detail that makes me so sure I’ll win any License Appeal I take the first time that I offer a Guarantee that if I do not, I will handle any subsequent License Hearing without additional Fees until I get the Client back on the road.
In a few of my articles, I have talked about Sobriety. Sobriety is, in fact, a first requirement in a License Appeal. Yet sometimes, I think beyond being the first requirement, it is also the first thing forgotten, or lost sight of, in a Driver’s License Restoration case. This article will not just reexamine what I have already dissected in my other articles about “Sobriety,” but will look at what the State needs to hear about on the subject from anyone hoping to win back their License. This will be a longer article.
In another recent article, I pointed out that Rule 13 of the Michigan Secretary of State’s Driver Assessment and Appeal Division (DAAD) governs a Driver’s License Restoration Appeal. We went on to boil Rule 13 down to 2 parts:
- That the person’s alcohol problem is under control, and
- That the person’s alcohol problem is likely to remain under control.
In a very real way, this mean that the person has been Sober since “X” date (usually a date MORE than a year prior to an Appeal being filed), and will likely remain Sober for the rest of their life.
Upon further examination, we will see that while being “Sober” necessarily means one is abstinent, being “abstinent” does not, necessarily, mean being “Sober.” This might make more sense if we look at an example.
Say Snake the Biker got off Probation for his second DUI about a year ago. If we were to ask him about not drinking, and how that’s working out for him, Snake might say something like this:
“I hate it. Dude, I’m a Biker. What kind of Biker can’t drink beer?” This sucks. But, I know that if I pick up another DUI, I’ll be sent off to Jail or Prison for at least a year, I’ll lose my motorcycle repair shop, I won’t be in the Club anymore, and I’ll lose my house, too. So I just sit here, drinking Coke, and hating this mess.”
Snake may be abstinent, but he’s far from Sober.
In fact, if you ask a truly “Sober” person about their Sobriety, chances are they’ll never get to mentioning all the bad things that would happen if they picked up another drink, and, of course, another DUI. Instead, they’d tell you about all the good things that have happened since they “put the plug in the jug,” so to speak. They’d detail how their family relationships have improved, how they began to feel better, physically and emotionally, and how they like that. They’d talk about getting involved in things they’d long put off, like going back to school, or seeking better employment, as well as any number of positive things that they would say are the result of getting Sober.
The kind of Sobriety the DAAD wants to see is not only a significant period of abstinence, but also a commitment to remaining abstinent. And that commitment usually cannot be made until a person not only realizes that they cannot drink again, but has that realization transformed from a mere intellectual concept to a gut-level, visceral reaction. Another example is in order:
First, let’s describe what we mean by an “intellectual concept.” Most people, before they finally decide to quit drinking forever, have at least a simple notion that they probably should quit drinking. Still, they keep putting off the day they’ll do something about it. These people know, at least in their heads, that they would be better off it they just gave up drinking altogether.
Imagine if I was to show the reader a picture of an electric stove, with all 4 burners on full blast, glowing orange. Next, I’d tell the reader to “google” what would happen if they put their hand on that burner for about 10 or 15 seconds and held it there. The reader would go to some science site that explains how the skin is mostly made up of water, and how quickly that water would boil, and then explain that at the burner’s temperature of whatever degrees, the water in the skin would essentially evaporate in about 1 second, causing the skin to then burn away, and leave the bare flesh exposed to the burner, which in turn would burn at such and such a rate. Long story short, the reader would learn that after 15 seconds on the burner, the hand would be permanently burned and scarred, and that extensive surgery and therapy would be necessary to ever have even limited use of it again.
This equates to an intellectual understanding of how the hand would burn if it were placed on a hot stove for 15 seconds.
Now, instead of showing the reader a picture of a hot stove, imagine if you were actually standing in front of a real electric range, with all 4 burners up full blast and glowing orange. Imagine next that 4 or 5 big, 6-foot 7-inch professional wrestlers grabbed you and held your arm out in front of you, intending to press your hand on the burner for a full 15 second count. As you struggled in vain against these giant Redwood tree-like Goliaths, you hear me ask “hey, buddy, what’s going to happen to your hand in a few seconds when those big goons start to grill it?”
You certainly wouldn’t start spouting off the “google” facts we just discussed. Instead, you’d struggle and fight and try to pull away with all your might and would scream “HELP!!!! PLEASE, NOOOOO!”
This equates to a gut-level, or visceral understanding of how the hand would burn if it were held on the stove for 15 seconds.
The difference is obvious.
When a person finally decides to get Sober, it almost always follows from an understanding that has dropped from their head into their gut. Something (usually something bad) has made the notion of “I cannot drink anymore” go from an abstract concept to an immediate, almost instinctual response.
Typically, this is the result of simply “hitting bottom.” In many cases, it’s the person’s last humiliation as the result of their last DUI that turns the notion of “I cannot drink anymore” from a mere idea to a burning necessity.
But it’s not as easy as just saying that. Whether a person is classified as an alcohol abuser, or as alcohol dependent, the AA concept of alcoholism as “cunning, baffling and powerful” has deep meaning here. No one is above random or stray thoughts to drink again. Almost without exception, even if a person is beaten down to death’s door by drink, as years pass, they’ll be offered a beer at a barbeque and will think, “gee, it’s been a few years. I know I can’t get back into this, but would a beer, just 1 beer, really kill me?” Or something like that. The point is, it is only normal to question the notion of total, lifelong abstinence.
Truly Sober people know that the answer to any such question is always “no.”
What’s interesting here is how the AA notion (and this applies to everyone, including those who have never gone to AA, or those who used to go, but got what they needed from the program and stopped) of “cunning, baffling and powerful” applies here.
Often, a person who has been abstinent for some time will wonder about just having a taste, or a single drink. The temptations that claim most people not fully committed to Sobriety are, more often than not, temptations for a sip, or a single drink, and not outright urges to buy a fifth and get rip-roaring drunk. That’s why alcoholism is considered “cunning.” Every “relapse” starts with a single drink.
The fact that these thoughts are normal 10 and 20 years after a person’s last drink demonstrates how “powerful” the disease can be.
And why these thoughts never completely go away is, quite plainly, “baffling.”
It is for this reason that the State Denies so many License Appeals. It is not often understood, even by that class of Lawyers who advertise that they “do” or “handle” License Appeals that true Sobriety is a combination of having the notion that “I cannot drink again” drop from a person’s head to their gut, as well as understanding that the “urge” to drink, or “thoughts” of drinking will always swirl around in the most “cunning, baffling and powerful” ways, and that the person needs to have the tools to ignore those stray thoughts, and relegate that pesky voice of temptation to mere background, or white noise.
This of course, is a large part of my job in preparing a License Appeal. Sometimes, I meet Clients who have all the components of “Sobriety,” but who have never been asked to explain it. I help them put the words to their story. I help them think back on their transformation from drinker to non-drinker and see that metamorphosis as the story of their Recovery, even if they never thought of it that way before.
Within the context of a License Appeal, satisfying the 2 main requirements of Rule 13 means showing that:
- The person has not had a drink of alcohol for whatever period of time (usually, a MINIMUM of 1 year), and
- The person is likely to NEVER drink again.
In the context of a drinking problem, this means the person must more than just know about, or understand the need to not drink; they must feel it, as well. The must feel it in their gut. It also means that the person is not only committed to never drink again, but has the tools to deal with being offered a beer at some point, years down the road, and the ability to ignore that pesky little voice that says, in effect, “come on, we can just have a sip. We won’t take more than a slug, but wouldn’t it be nice to know what that tastes like?”
Being able to safely ignore those inevitable temptations cannot occur until the person does, within the core of their being and the fiber of their soul, understand that they cannot, ever, drink again. And that understanding must first grow from a simple, intellectual concept, or understanding, into something that is visceral. To put it another way, the idea must transform into a gut-reaction.
I explain to my Clients that the whole notion that “I know I can never drink again” has to be as true and indubitable to them as the the ideas that “water is wet, fire is hot, and the sky is above.”