To win a Michigan Driver’s License Restoration Appeal, a person must prove, by “Clear and Convincing Evidence,” that their “alcohol or substance abuse problems, if any, are under control and likely to remain under control.”
In the real world, this translates to a person having to show that their alcohol problem is under control, and likely to remain under control. Absent any indication of past problematic drug usage, the Michigan Secretary of State’s Driver Assessment and Appeal Division (DAAD) is not going to waste time inquiring about a “substance abuse” problem that doesn’t exist, and anyone who has 2 or more DUI convictions within 7 years, or 3 or more within 10 years will be presumed have an alcohol problem, with no “if any” question about it. This essentially means that anyone filing a License Appeal because their License was Revoked for multiple DUI convictions will be presumed to have an alcohol problem.
This is important. Anyone thinking of trying a License Appeal on the basis that they don’t have an alcohol problem is wasting their time. This approach isn’t just a bad plan; it’s worse than having no plan at all. The DAAD (and pretty much the rest of the world, for that matter) will conclude that anyone with at least 2 DUI’s in 7 years has a drinking problem. This adds another translation to the concept that a person’s alcohol problem is likely to remain under control, and amounts to a person being a safe bet to never drink again. I tell my Clients that, in a very real way, the Hearing Officer has to be convinced that the person is, in fact, convinced that they can never drink again.
Theoretically, a person can have 2 Drunk Driving convictions, even within 7 years, and not have a drinking problem. In reality, such a case is rare. In my 22 years as a License Restoration Lawyer, and out of all the Michigan Driver’s License Restoration or Clearance cases I’ve handled, less than a handful have ever presented this circumstance. Usually, by the time any normal person picks up their second DUI, they’ve had other issues with alcohol, as well. A Client of mine said it best at his License Appeal Hearing (which, by the way, he won):
“By the time I got arrested the second time, I had already run into some other complications from my drinking, but I thought I had a good explanation for all of them. Sitting in that Jail cell, it was like a switch flipped. I could see that that alcohol was the common denominator to all the problems in my life; it was why I was in there again. My explanations didn’t make sense anymore. I realized I had been in denial, and that alcohol was my problem.”
It’s not that a second DUI within 7 years, standing alone, is absolute proof of a problem, it’s that almost everyone who gets that second DUI will be hard pressed to honestly say that the only problems alcohol has ever caused are just those two DUI’s, and nothing more.
Almost without exception, therefore, anyone who becomes my Client will have long ago accepted that they have an alcohol problem. I don’t waste my time with anyone who is not genuinely Sober, or who thinks that they can still drink, however occasionally (like that works, anyway). In practical terms, if the next two hundred people to call my Office about a License Restoration were to claim that they don’t have a drinking problem, or really believed that they could continue to drink without risk, I’d be lucky to find even one that the DAAD would agree with. Accordingly, it’s nothing more than a waste of time to deal with anyone who thinks this way.
The kind of introspection necessary for a person to “accept” that they have a drinking problem is always the result of a kind of “a-ha” or “light switch” moment. There is always some event, or some realization that precedes this acceptance. It’s almost as if, looking back over their past, a person now sees the landscape of their life differently, as if there was a missing “something” that prevented them from having seen things as they really were, as opposed to just having seen things the way they wanted. Suddenly, the Police weren’t just “out to get them.” The person does a kind of mental “180” and stops blaming everybody for everything that has gone wrong in their lives. To them, it feels like blinders have been removed, and now the person can see their own choices, and particularly their choice to drink, as the reason for the way things are the way they are in their lives.
Curiously, many people “know” they have a drinking problem before the really accept it. An example best illustrates this distinction: If you were to go up to anybody standing outside of an office building smoking a cigarette in the middle of a Michigan February, when the temperature is about 7 degrees, and the wind chill is below zero, and say to them “you need to quit,” almost every single one of them would look at you as they’re shivering and reply, “I know.” They do know. Intellectually, they know and understand that what they’re doing is harmful, and they’d be better off quitting. They know they need to quit, but they are far from actually accepting it.
Now, if any of those people were to suddenly become ill, and was found to have lung cancer, and had part of one lung removed, only to be told by their Surgeon “you need to quit,” every single one of them would not only “know” that to be true, they’d accept it as an unquestionable fact.
This is what happens when a person accepts that they cannot drink anymore. They don’t just “know” that they can no longer drink as some distant, vague, intellectual concept; they fundamentally accept it as an indisputable truth. People in AA often describe this turning point as having become “sick and tired of being sick and tired.”
In order to win a Michigan License Restoration case, a person must demonstrate that they have not had a drink for a certain minimum time period (in my Practice, I won’t touch a case where a person has anything less that 12 months of Sobriety, and almost all of my Clients have considerably more than that) and that it is likely that will never drink again. In order for anyone to honestly get to the point where they are likely to never drink again, they will have first had to accept, and come to truly believe, that they have an alcohol problem. Only then can they begin to Recover, and only thereafter will their voluntary abstinence become real Sobriety.