Winning a Michigan License Appeal Requires "Getting it."

April 1, 2013

In order to win a Michigan License Appeal after multiple DUI's, you have to "get it." I've written countless articles about how and why Sobriety is a first, and necessary requirement to win a Michigan License Appeal. I've made it clear that, in order to win your case, you must have really quit drinking, first. Despite all this information on my site, and the numerous articles saying much the same thing on my blog, I still get calls every day from people who admit to still drinking. Of course, once we ask about that, every one of them tries to qualify it by noting that they only drink "once in a while," or "occasionally." This misses the point that the whole first requirement of a License Appeal, or at least one that has any chance of actually winning, is that a person has stopped drinking for good.

"Getting it," means coming to the realization that you can no longer drink. It means having been beaten up by your drinking so badly that you can truly say you've had enough. In fact, if there's one thing that really separates those who get it from those who don't, it's that those who really "get it" have hit bottom.

gotItGuy 1.2.pngTo put his in perspective, the rules of the Michigan Secretary of State's Driver Assessment and Appeal Division (DAAD) require that, in order to win a License Appeal case, a person must prove, by what it calls "clear and convincing evidence," that his or her alcohol problem "is under control and likely to remain under control." That means a person must essentially convince the Hearing Officer that they are a safe bet to never drink again. There is no middle ground or qualifier here: Either you've quit drinking, or not.

The truth is that any person who still hangs on to the belief that he or she can have the occasional glass of wine has not yet hit bottom. That belief conflicts with reality, as well. I "occasionally" light fireworks, usually on the Fourth of July and on New Years. I "occasionally" eat at McDonalds, maxing out at about 3 or 4 times a year. Those struggling with the belief that they can somehow find a way to control or manage their drinking will inevitably define "occasionally" with a much greater degree of frequency than everyone else.

However you cut it, "occasional" is a lot less frequent than "weekly." The larger point is that once a person's drinking reaches the point of becoming a problem (and the State presumes that's the case once a person racks up 2 DUI's within 7 years), the only accepted way of getting over it is to completely eliminate alcohol from the picture. Forever. Sober people understand this.

There is an identifiable starting point from which everyone gets sober. AA people sometimes describe it as "being sick and tired of being sick and tired." Substance Abuse Counselors characterize it as "hitting bottom." You can also think of it as a kind of "final humiliation," because in every case where a person throws down the gauntlet and declares that, "enough is enough," they have already felt humiliated, even if just privately, by the consequences of their drinking. I've heard people say that they realized their drinking had become problem when they kept on (in some cases "couldn't stop") drinking even though they recognized that it was causing them to live well beneath their own potential. For such people, drinking wasn't fun anymore...

At some point, everyone who gets sober hits a certain point of "no more." This is NOT an intellectual thing, either. When a person hits bottom, it's like a punch in the gut. No one sits in front of their computer and fills out a balance sheet and weights the costs and benefits of continuing to drink versus quitting. In fact, most people who eventually hit bottom will report that they should have quit drinking long before they actually hit bottom. Consider this example: If you see a person standing outside of an office building having a cigarette when it's freezing outside, and the temperature is in the teens, and you go up to them and tell them that they should quit, they will, almost without exception, agree with you. They know that they'd be far better off if they did. None of these smokers would argue that it would be better for them to continue to smoke than to quit. Intellectually, they understand that they should quit. An intellectual understanding, however, is never enough to get anyone over an addiction.

Thus, a person has to really get beaten up before they "get it." In fact, it is almost always the lack of having hit a true "bottom" that separates past unsuccessful attempts to quit from that final attempt that actually sticks.

Really "getting it," then, means having really hit bottom. And really "getting it" means that a person has come to understand that not only can't they ever drink another drop of alcohol as long as they live, but that they must also be on the lookout to avoid ingesting anything that will change their mood or state of mind. A person in recovery cannot use any potentially addictive medication, unless his or her Doctor knows about their recovery and controls and limits their use. No one expects a recovering alcoholic to have a leg amputated and not get pain medicine. But it does mean that if a person recovering from a drinking problem has a tooth pulled, and their Dentist gives them a prescription for Vicodin, they'll skip filling it and tough it out with some regular over-the-counter Extra Strength Tylenol, instead.

Likewise, a person who is really in recovery, meaning a person who really "gets it," will not use drugs that can trigger any kind of relapse. They understand that all potentially addictive medications, or drugs that can be abused and that can alter one's mind or mood need to be avoided. When a person finally "gets it," they see everything differently. They ditch the drinking friends. They don't hang out at bars. They get rid of any alcohol in the home. Their life does an abrupt and complete one hundred and eighty degree turn. If this makes perfect sense to you, then you probably get it. If not, then you're not there yet. Getting to the point of "getting it" is a process. Every single person who now "gets it" did not get it at some point before. It's like riding a bike. Everyone who can ride a bike used to be a person that could not yet ride a bike; it's a process.

In the case of a License Appeal, though, a person has to be past the point of "getting it" in order to win. In fact, the real point of the License Appeal process is to make sure that a person really "gets it." The whole inquiry of the DAAD is to make sure that a person has internalized the belief that he or she can never drink again, and has made the necessary changes in life to assure that. If that describes you, then you "get it." The only thing left to get is your License. If you're not there yet, that's okay, as long as you're moving in the right direction. In either case, call me. I'll be glad to help.