Michigan Driver’s License Restoration – What to do to win your License back After a 2nd or 3rd DUI – Part 2

In part 1 of this article, we began looking at how and why the time between a person’s last DUI, assuming that it’s a 2nd or 3rd offense, and the time he or she becomes eligible to file a license appeal, is important. Given that your license will be revoked for multiple DUI’s, and because the Michigan Secretary of State’s Driver Assessment and Appeal Division (DAAD) will be looking at what you did between the date of your revocation and the time you file a license appeal, making good use of that time is important. We identified that the most important part of a Michigan driver’s license restoration appeal is proving, by clear and convincing evidence, that your alcohol problem “is likely to remain under control,” meaning that you will essentially be required to prove that you’re sober.

In this second part, we’ll pick up by considering how that is done. The idea here is to use the time from your last DUI productively, so that it will help pave the way for winning your license back, either through a license restoration appeal, or through a clearance of the Michigan hold on your driving record that stands in the way of your getting or renewing a license in another state.

to-do-list 2.1.jpgGetting sober, however, is a journey. This is why a very basic piece of beginner’s advice in AA is “fake it ’till you make it.” That works for AA and even has some role in pre or early recovery, but it takes much more than “faking it” to be successful in a license restoration appeal before the DAAD. This will become clear as we separate these things out a bit. As a Michigan driver’s license restoration lawyer actively involved in ongoing, formal education in addiction studies at the post-graduate, University level, I bring both a legal and clinical understanding to this subject. That’s not meant to sound fancy; I bring it up because my special background gives me such an advantage in the field of Michigan driver’s license restoration cases that I provide a guarantee that if I take your case, I will win it. This first-time win guarantee means that I am every bit as invested as you in winning your case and getting you back on the road the first time.

It would seem that our real goal, after a person’s last (meaning 2nd or 3rd, or even 4th or subsequent) DUI is to nudge or urge them from the denial stage into the recognition stage that his or her drinking has become a problem. The difficulty with this is simple: The harder you try, the farther you push someone away. It is an established fact that about the least successful way to get someone to recognize a problem with their drinking is to nag them. Screaming and yelling and intellectual appeals and cost-benefit analysis presented by well meaning family and friends are almost guaranteed to have zero effect. Yet a simple line passed on from therapist to a client of mine says it better than all the slogans of AA or observations in college textbooks: Anything that causes a problem, is a problem.

When you’re dealing with your 2nd or 3rd DUI, the only question to ask is, “what’s causing this problem?” The answer, at least to anyone whose thinking is not impaired by denial, is obvious. This, of course, really highlights the conundrum and frustration of an alcohol problem, because, for the most part, everyone on the outside can see that a person’s troubles all stem from his or her use of alcohol, while the very person affected blames the police, “the system,” or some external source of pressure or stress.

Yet there is a role for the “fake it ’till you make it” approach in the whole license appeal process, and in the very way that the AA people mean it. And to be clear, none of this has anything to do with actually going to AA. AA is a great program that helps a lot of people, but in the final tally, 2 out of 3 people who maintain long-term sobriety do so without staying involved in AA. As the previous 2-part article on this blog explains, AA is helpful, but absolutely NOT necessary to win a Michigan driver’s license restoration case. More than half of the people for whom I win back a Michigan driver’s license, or for whom I win a clearance are not involved in AA by the time I take their case.

As meant by the AA people, “fake it ’till you make it” means going to AA meetings, showing up, listening, and at least pretending you have a desire to stop drinking. The underlying idea is that, soon enough, what you hear there will make sense, and someday you will finally come around to the idea that, no matter how hard you try, you just can’t completely control your drinking, or what happens when you start drinking. You’ll “see the light,” in other words. This has worked for countless people who find sobriety, even if it takes repeated attempts and years of trying.

In a 2nd or 3rd DUI case, the law requires, as a condition of your sentence, that you be sent to some kind of counseling. Nowadays, there is often a rather frequent alcohol testing requirement that goes along with that, as well, to make sure you comply with the Judge’s “no drinking” order. Accordingly, even if you quit drinking only because you “have to,” the idea is to at least try to keep your eyes and ears, if not your mind, open as you comply with the requirement to not drink, and complete whatever counseling, education or rehab you’ve been ordered to do. And truth be told, there really is no one who, having gone a month without drinking, can honestly say they don’t feel at least a little better, physically speaking. Whatever else, there is no one who will abstain from drinking and report that their life has gotten worse. Perhaps a hard-core, long-time alcoholic will miss his or her bar friends terribly, because those are the only friends he or she has ever had, but once such a person starts wondering why none of those “friends” has bothered to drop by or otherwise check in on them, they’ll begin to see the reality that those people weren’t real “friends” in the first place. Suddenly, he or she understands the meaning of the term “drinking buddies.”

Hopefully, somewhere along the way, the proverbial “light bulb” will go off in your head and you’ll realize ‘my drinking is causing too many problems.” Ironically, by the time most people “get it,” everyone else around them had already gotten the idea long ago. In some cases, the drinker has lost or become estranged from family or friends, or perhaps lost a job because of the trouble caused by his or her drinking. Usually, the person with the drinking problem is the very last person to come to that realization.

Many of my Michigan license clearance or restoration clients have racked up 4, 5 or even more DUI’s before they ever admit their drinking is troublesome. I have seen many eyebrows rise when I disclose that the guy with the most DUI’s for whom I handled a license appeal (and for whom I won the very first time!) had 13 prior drunk driving convictions. Many people who eventually do “get it” have spent a lot of time and had a lot of turns in AA and/or counseling before the message ever sinks in. The point I’m making is that all of that time in AA and counseling and education and rehab is not really wasted. At the very least, each time through AA or counseling at least adds another layer to the foundation to a person’s eventual recovery. If the real world reality is that the first contact with a recovery message is practically doomed to fail, the hope is that maybe the second or the third time will be the charm. This will likely make perfect sense to anyone who is now sober, yet will make little sense to someone who is not “there” yet.

Thus, even if, after your 2nd or 3rd DUI, you remain convinced that you can somehow control or manage you’re drinking, or can successfully cut down, and/or otherwise don’t believe you have a problem, at least pay attention to what you hear as part of any AA, counseling, education or rehab that you are required to do. Listen. If you need to argue against what you hear, then argue to yourself. The idea is that it very often requires multiple exposures to the message that your relationship to alcohol is problematic before the concept takes hold. Certainly, it almost always takes multiple drinking-related consequences before a person sees the connection between their use of alcohol and the problems it has created. No one winds up in front of a Judge because they’re “on a roll.”

Follow the advice. “Fake it ’till you make it.” You’ll need to eventually show the state that you’ve had AA and/or counseling and/or education and/or rehab to win a license appeal, anyway, so even if you go just because you have to, understand that even that counts for something. Even if you hate every minute of AA, counseling or rehab, it will help you in the long run, and in more ways than you can probably even imagine right now.

For the most part, whatever court handles your 2nd or 3rd DUI conviction will be hurling plenty of recovery stuff your way, anyway. Even so, every once in a while a person manages to slip out of a 2nd or 3rd DUI without a lot of counseling. Some Judge might feel that a 3rd offender is better off with a longer jail stint, and will skimp out on the counseling aspect of the sentence. Instead of requiring the person to complete a longer treatment program, such a Judge might feel that those 12 weeks are better spent in jail, and will only order, upon a person’s release, that he or she completes a short 4 or 6 session education program. This is not a break.

When the time comes for a license appeal, the state will have grave concerns that so very few sessions is enough for a person to not only come to grips with the problematic nature of their drinking, but to learn the tools necessary to remain alcohol-free, to avoid relapse, and to establish and maintain a “sober lifestyle.” What may have at first seemed like a break doesn’t seem like much of one later, when it’s time to consider a license appeal.

There is no “formula” that I can suggest for what you should (or should not) do, because everyone is different. The key and underlying principle here, however, is that you should do whatever it is that allows to you “get it.” And by “getting it,” I mean coming to understand that you cannot drink anymore. For some people, the “light bulb” moment happens before they ever see a counselor or step into an AA meeting. Sometimes that light bulb goes off as he or she sits in jail after their last DUI arrest. For such a person, counseling, rehab and/or support groups only help them control a problem he or she has already recognized. For others, their “a-ha” moment comes, if ever, as a result of something they hear in the time spent doing these things.

And to be clear, plenty people do their required stint in AA, complete counseling, and then go back to drinking again. Sometimes it is many years down the road when a person has that feeling of “hitting bottom.” Suddenly, all the stuff they heard from years ago comes rushing back and suddenly applies directly to them. In a flash, everything just comes together and makes perfect sense. The point here is that this moment wouldn’t happen without having spent the time doing AA or counseling or rehab. What felt like a waste of time back then seems like a great investment, now
Unfortunately, that’s the optimistic view. The truth is that lots of people just never get it, no matter how many times they’re given “help.” They fight the system, they deny that their drinking is really a problem, despite multiple DUI’s, and they languish in misery. Some people don’t have a “bottom.” The homeless alcoholic living under the bridge couldn’t possibly lose more, could he? It’s a sad fact is that most people with a drinking problem just don’t get better. This is why the state makes the license appeal process rather difficult. As true as it is that most people with a troubled relationship to alcohol are not able to maintain long-term sobriety, it is also true that most of them who ever held a drive’s license will pop up sometime and try and win back their driving privileges by telling the state that everything is now under control.

Given the fact that most people with a drinking problem don’t get better explains why the state sets the bar so high in driver’s license restoration appeal cases. The idea is that it is far better for a sober person to not win the first time and have to come back to try another time than it is to set the bar low enough to ever allow some risky drinker, or someone who is at least a risk to drink again, to regain the legal privilege to drive.

The bottom line, then, is that what you do after your 2nd or 3rd DUI conviction is vitally important to your ability to win a license appeal down the road. You need to get sober, and you need to be able to prove it. Merely staying out of trouble and waiting until you’re eligible to file an appeal is far from enough. Knowing that proving you’re sober is the key to winning back you’re license, proceed accordingly.

I hope I’ve awakened some interest on this subject. Within my many driver’s license restoration blog articles, there is plenty of information that can help you get a head start. You can’t just wait for something to happen; instead, you have to make it happen. If you have any questions, drop me a line or give me a call. When you’re ready to file you’re license appeal, I’m here to help. If you’ve used your “in-between” time wisely, and I take your case, I’ll win your driver’s license back, guaranteed.