In part 1 of this article, we began a review of how AA attendance can be helpful, but is absolutely not necessary to win a Michigan driver's license restoration appeal. As a Michigan driver's license restoration lawyer, I work with both a clinical and legal knowledge of the principles of recovery every day. I have to make sure that we prove to the Michigan Secretary of State's Driver Assessment and Appeal Division (DAAD), by "clear and convincing evidence," that your alcohol problem is "likely to remain under control." This means that we have to fit the clinical indications of your transition from drinker to non-drinker - meaning your recovery - into the legal confines of proving that you're a safe bet to never drink again. And we have to do it in a way that conforms with the understanding of the hearing officers that make the final license restoration decisions. To accomplish this, I have to know specifically what kind of proofs each hearing officer is looking for.
Put more simply, we need to prove your sobriety to a hearing officer's satisfaction. Not drinking is a start, but real sobriety also involves an understanding of the need for and a real commitment to stay alcohol-free. Nothing has come close to exploring and explaining the idea that a person simply cannot control or moderate his or her drinking, and therefore must stop completely, like AA's fist step. This cornerstone concept of AA really shapes and defines the whole idea of getting over a drinking problem, and is a familiar context in which to examine a person's commitment to sobriety, even if the person doesn't go to AA.
Think of it this way: If I were to talk about a specific license appeal and say we've "hit a home run," or we've "struck out," don't those descriptors help define your understanding of what happened? You know, almost by instinct, that in the "home run" case, we won, and in the case where we "struck out," we lost. Using these familiar terms is helpful by way of description of our success or failure, but it doesn't mean that we're actually playing baseball. Thus, the concept of sobriety is at least described, often enough, in "first step" terms, even for those who don't know the first thing about AA. The bottom line is that future sobriety is directly correlated to an internalized belief that you cannot drink again.
Of all the gifts that AA has passed down into the world of recovery, nothing comes close to its first step. While the language itself ("We admitted we were powerless over alcohol-that our lives had become unmanageable") is rather esoteric to the outsider, the translated meaning is simple, direct, and clear: You have to stop drinking. At some point, everyone in recovery learns this one basic fact - moderation does not work. Some people rack up an entire series of life problems, including multiple DUI's, trying to control or cut down or otherwise manage their drinking, but sooner or later, those who get better come to realize that the only way to control their drinking is to not drink at all. You can call that a recognition of your powerlessness over alcohol, or you can consider yourself completely empowered over alcohol, as long as you choose not to drink, but semantics aside, it's the same thing: Recovery begins when the drinking ends.
If you stick around AA long enough to learn some of the nuances of the first step, you'll hear all kinds of things. Many, if not most, of these "first step" idioms have little to do with the actual language of the first step, but have become so attached to the whole concept of the "first step" that they seem eternally bound together. Of particular help to the newcomer to abstinence is the whole "one day at a time" phenomenon. You don't have to go to AA to learn this. Should you find yourself sitting in front of a knowing counselor or therapist, or in the right rehab program, you may very well learn that early in a person's recovery, when the prospect of never drinking again seems incredibly hard to grasp and rather scary, it can be very helpful to just segment the commitment to not drink into 24 hour periods. You learn, in other words, to take it "one day at a time."
Therefore, if someone expresses to their counselor, or to a table of AA members that they don't know how they'll get through the rest of their lives, including every future holiday season, without so much as a glass of wine, they'll be taught about one day at a time. "Can you get through today without a drink?" will often be the reply, to which the person will respond "sure." "Then just focus on today. You can worry about tomorrow, tomorrow." This simple little trick has helped countless people string enough days together to add up to weeks, then months, and then years.
By contrast, some people come to the point of quitting drinking knowing that they need to quit forever. This gets to the larger point of this whole article; different things work for different people. The key to getting and staying sober is finding the one that actually works for you, not what someone else says will work for you.