In part 1 of this article, we began looking at the benefits and growth of DUI sobriety courts in Michigan. We examined how these programs can help someone facing a 2nd offense DUI, and even a 3rd offense DUI, not only to get sober, but also to NOT lose their driver’s license. I pointed out that in my practice as a DUI and driver’s license restoration lawyer, I deal with alcohol problems on both sides of the equation; from those facing a drunk driving charge and struggling with their drinking, to those who have gotten sober and are ready to win back their driver’s license. In addition, I bring a clinical background and education to my practice, which initially made me a bit skeptical of sobriety courts. However, because of the many success stories I have seen, I have been won over and think everyone facing a 2nd or 3rd DUI should at least consider sobriety court, if it’s an option. We ended the first installment with 1 of 3 real-life examples of sobriety court success from my own case files. Let’s move on now to the others, and then look closer at the what sobriety court really is all about.
My second example is a situation I have dealt with many times since, but this driver’s license restoration case, from a few years ago, connected me to one of my first sobriety court graduate clients. In these cases, I am hired to get the person’s restricted sobriety court license changed to a “full” license. Normally, exploring a person’s recovery and the depth of his or her commitment to sobriety is the “meat and potatoes” of a driver’s license restoration appeal. When I walked into the room to meet this fellow (he had not been my DUI client, so he was a new to me), I was a bit skeptical of his sobriety credentials, considering that they were exclusively from his participation in the sobriety court program and that they were only a few years old, at that. Boy, was I in for a surprise. This guy told a story about having been dragged kicking and screaming into sobriety court, figuring he could live for a year or a year and a half without a drink and somehow get through it. Cloaked in denial and filled with resistance, the light switch flipped for him early on in the program and he just had an epiphany that he could and would never drink again. He said that there were 2 sayings from the AA program that hit home with him: “I didn’t get in trouble every time I drank, but every time I got in trouble, I was drinking,” and “I was sick and tired of being sick and tired.” Counseling helped him get honest with himself, and when he could no longer believe his own lies, he just knew that he had to put the plug in the jug and quit drinking for good. But for him, like my other client, it was a lot more than just not drinking that changed his life; he got sober. His whole life changed, and he was happy and upbeat and making money because he became a much better version of himself. He ditched his anger and resentments and if you met him, you’d have seen and felt just how magnetic a person he was (and still is). He too, credited sobriety court for helping him break through his denial and achieve real sobriety. The most obvious thing about the guy was that he was a happy, positive and radiant person.
The third example comes from another DUI client of mine who I got into a sobriety court. In this case, the court where his 2nd DUI was pending had (and still has) a sobriety court program. This client is amongst the very nicest of people you could ever meet, with a flair for the artistic and dramatic that makes him fun to just be around. Although he acknowledged early on that drinking had become a problem for him, and he wanted the help from sobriety court, he wasn’t quite ready, early on, to quit drinking for good. In other words, he struggled a bit. It happens. This is what people mean when they say that relapse is part of recovery. Fortunately, my client just happened to wind up in an awesome sobriety court program, and the Judge didn’t give up on him. Just like everybody else, the decision to finally stop drinking for good – the one that “stuck” and really marked the start of his sobriety – came as the all-too-cliched, but also very real “light bulb” moment. Part of his sobriety court program was to see a therapist, and at first, he didn’t much like the guy because the therapist wasn’t buying any of my client’s BS and excuses for drinking. As my client explained it, the therapist challenged him in a way that had him thinking even after the sessions ended, and it was that “food for thought” that eventually tipped the scales in his mind in favor of NOT drinking anymore. Although the decision to quit drinking was ultimately my client’s, he credited the dialogue with his therapist for helping him get to that point. On a side note, this client did not fit in well with the AA program, and to his Judge’s credit, he was allowed to use alternative community supports instead. At any rate, this dynamic fellow really came into his own and blossomed in his sobriety. More important than the external changes, however, was the fact that, internally, he was happy. He found the joy in life again, and it all came about because of his participation in the sobriety court program.