How much Abstinence and Support you need to win a Michigan Driver’s License Appeal – Part 2

In part 1 of this article, we began an examination of how much abstinence you should have before filing a Michigan driver’s license restoration or clearance case. I pointed out that my office will generally not request a hearing until the client has at least 18 months of sobriety prior to their haring date. I also noted that the more sobriety a person has, the better, and the easiest way to figure out if you do (or don’t) have enough sobriety time to move forward with a license appeal is to simply call our office and ask. In this second part, I want to look at the role in which support plays in a person’s sobriety, and then see how that interacts with the length of time a person has been abstinent, particularly in the context of a license appeal.

2-300x240Sobriety is one thing, but support for it is another. Sobriety comes from the inside, while “support” mostly comes from the outside. Although they’re separate issues, the amount of time a person has been sober and the kind of support they do (or don’t) have interacts in a way that directly affects how a Michigan Secretary of State hearing officer will perceive his or her case. Just as with sober time, the more support a person has to stay sober, the better, especially when it comes to wining a license appeal.

Hold on, though, because almost instantly, most people will mentally jump from “support” to “support group,” and then, in turn, too AA. That’s a mistake. In fact, the majority of our clients are NOT active in AA when they come to see us, and we NEVER recommend that anyone “start going” if they’re not already in the program.

We win our cases whether a person is in AA or not, and most of our clients are not. Remember, we  guarantee to win every driver’s license restoration and clearance case we take, so we put our money where our mouths are. Whatever else, the reader should NOT automatically think that support for sobriety just means “AA,” because it doesn’t.

AA is a great program for some folks, but certainly not for everyone. While there are those who seem to thrive in it, most of our clients are people who tried it for a while, took what they needed from it, and then moved on. For every person like that, there are also plenty of others who just didn’t like AA at all, and that’s OK, too.

If there’s one universal truth about recovery, it’s that everyone’s is different.

The point I’m driving at here is that “support” isn’t limited to AA, or even to any other established “programs” or support groups. Instead, support includes things like people – family and friends – who understand, or at least come to understand, what it means for someone to have a problem with alcohol (and/or drugs), pick up some basics about recovery (like not drinking in the person’s presence) and who are there to help that person in whatever way they can.

The reality is that anyone who still drinks in front of you, even though he or she claims to “understand” that you can’t drink anymore, is NOT any kind of support.

One of the first lessons a newcomer to AA will get is to “avoid wet faces and wet places.” This translates to staying away from people who drink and places where you’d get or drink alcohol. Even if someone has never gone to AA, but goes to counseling, instead, they’re going to hear pretty much the same thing. The idea is to help a person understand that sobriety doesn’t work with a drinking lifestyle.

Although it makes sense to say that recovery begins by making good (and better) choices, a lot of people who are on the outside don’t really “get” this beyond not asking you to drink with them. No matter how you you cut it, either the people you hang with are going to help you stay sober, or not. Merely not asking you to drink while they indulge does not qualify as any kind of “help.” Therefore, a person trying to get sober will have to explain some things about recovery to certain family members and friends who don’t have any kind of problem themselves.

This goes a lot deeper than you just deciding not to drink anymore.

Once the people who are truly supportive of your recovery understand enough of what’s involved, they will adapt their behavior accordingly.

For example, understanding guests who drop by will bring soft drinks (or whatever else) and no longer bring booze. If you go to an event with them, like a baseball game or concert, they’ll pass on the alcohol because they understand what it means to support you.

Or not. If drinking is so high on somebody’s list of priorities that they can’t forgo it in exchange for your company, they’re not any kind of real friend in the first place. It often comes as a big, fat smack upside the head when people realize that so many of the people they previously considered friends were nothing more than just “drinking buddies.”

When the chips are down, you’ll always find out who your real friends are, and they will never be the people for whom drinking is more important than not drinking, as a show of support for your recovery.

The point I’m driving at here is that “support” is not limited to just AA, or even to any other established “programs” or support groups. Instead, support includes; people, family, and friends. Individuals who understand, or at least come to understand, what it means for someone to have a problem with alcohol (and/or drugs), pick up some basics about recovery (like not drinking in the person’s presence) and who are there to help that person in whatever way they can.

The reality is that anyone who still drinks in front of you, even though he or she claims to “understand” that you can’t drink anymore, is NOT any kind of support.

One of the first lessons a newcomer to AA will get is to “avoid wet faces and wet places.” This translates to; staying away from people who drink, and places where you would get alcohol, or where you go to drink alcohol. Even if someone has never gone to AA, but goes to counseling, they are going to hear the same advice consistently. The idea is to help a person understand that sobriety does not work with a drinking lifestyle. This is a complete lifestyle change.

Recovery begins by making good (and better) choices. A lot of people who are on the outside don’t really “get” this. They think support is just asking you to not drink, with them. No matter how you cut it, either the people you hang out with are going to help you stay sober, or not. Merely not asking you to drink, while they indulge, does not qualify as any kind of “help.”  Therefore, a person trying to get sober will have to explain some things about recovery to certain family members and friends who may not be dealing with this kind of problem themselves.

While it’s not my intention to pass judgment on anyone’s relatives who may not know better, the idea of a “supportive family” is one that can and will recognize that one of its members is in recovery and cannot drink. They should be cheerleaders for your sobriety, and will have no problem just having soda or iced tea at any kind of family gathering, just like they would be careful if a family member had a severe peanut allergy and would not serve peanuts in any of the dishes.

“Support,” in that sense, most often involves sacrifice.

We once reviewed (and rejected) a letter of support from a client’s family that explicitly said that alcohol was an important part their family gatherings (and hence, they would not skip the booze at such functions), but that they had observed that when our client attended, he did not drink.

There was our client, trying to get past a lifetime of troubles caused by drinking, and knowing that he should never pick up again, now having to make a decision to either not attend the family’s Thanksgiving dinner to protect his sobriety, or risk having to resist the temptation of watching everyone else indulge  on this “special occasion.”

In the case of the rejected letter, it was certainly more a matter of the family simply not understanding how they could and should have supported out client, as opposed to them just not caring.  Nevertheless, the point is that it was not (and certainly didn’t look like) any kind of “support” for them to attest that, while everyone else was drinking at Thanksgiving dinner, they observed our client being the exception by abstaining.

Whatever else, this kind of letter would have the opposite effect of helping a case if presented to any Secretary of State hearing officer.  Any gatherings the family holds where alcohol is “important” would be perceived as a source of temptation, and that’s rather the opposite of any kind of support.

Of course, “support” can also involve other things such as; meetings with a counselor, or being part of any other support group, even if it’s not specifically sobriety-related. We have had plenty of clients who meet with a counselor (even for reasons other than drinking), or as part of some other group where sobriety may be discussed, even though it is not be the sole focus of the group. Lots of churches have groups like this.

Some people, even after leaving AA, keep up a relationship with someone they consider a mentor, or “sponsor” of sorts. Others people find “support” in just reading about sobriety.

The best way to think of “support,,in the context of sobriety, is seeing it as something active a person does, or that others do, that helps foster and maintain recovery. A spouse who quits drinking and doesn’t bring alcohol into the home is lending support. This is real support, and as the as I’ve tried to make clear, real support requires more than just passively respecting another person’s decision to not drink.

In a general sense, those who support another person’s sobriety will have learned a few things, the most important of which is that the person in recovery can never, ever pick up another drink (or use drugs) again. This is why the notion that someone merely respecting another person’s decision to not drink falls short of actually being any kind of real support.

By the same token, anyone who would not speak up and clearly express profound disappointment upon seeing a person who is supposedly in recovery indulge themselves by drinking isn’t giving any kind of “support,” either

There’s an old saying we can adapt to really bring this point home: “There are 3 kinds of people in this world: those who make things happen, those who watch things happen, and those who wondered what the hell just happened.”

In the context of supporting someone’s sobriety, there are also 3 kinds of people: Those who will help you not drink, those who will respect your decision to not drink, and those who will still ask it you want one, and then wonder why you say “no.”

As much as we could go on about this, it should be clear enough that the level of support a person does or does not have matters, and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see how that directly interacts with the length of time a person has been abstinent.

The longer a person has gone without a drink, the better. Statistically speaking, the incidence of relapse falls off significantly after 5 years of abstinence. Therefore, when it comes to a license appeal, 2 years sober is better than 18 months, 3 years is better than 2, and 5 is even better than 3.

Likewise, the more support a person has, the better. If a person is active in AA and has a family that is really into and proud of his or her sobriety, that’s great. If a person has a spouse or partner who doesn’t drink and won’t allow alcohol in the home, that’s great, too.

It’s always better if the recovering person is surrounded by people that will help keep him or her out of harm’s way, rather than thinking that, because he or she can’t drink anymore, they’re perfect for the role of “designated driver.”

To the extent that a person has less sober time, then having more support is a good thing. To the extent that he or she has more sober time, then he or she will be perceived as needing less external support, although anyone in recovery should always have at least some.

Obviously, the more of both a person has, the better.

If you are looking for a lawyer to win back your Michigan driver’s license, or to clear a Michigan hold on your driving record, do your homework and read around. Read how other lawyers explain things like this, explain the other facets of the license restoration process, and how they explain themselves.

If you are looking for a lawyer to win back your Michigan driver’s license, or to clear a Michigan hold on your driving record, do your homework and read around. Read how other lawyers explain things like this, explain the other facets of the license restoration process, and how they explain themselves.

All of our consultations are free, confidential, and, as I stated above, done over the phone, right when you call. My team and I are very friendly people who will be glad to answer your questions and explain things. It’s always best if you ring us when you have a little time to speak. We can be reached Monday through Friday, from 8:30 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. (EST), at 248-986-9700 or 586-465-1980.