In part 1 of this article, we began looking at how every person who manages to get sober has a “recovery story,” and, even if they’ve never thought of their experiences in that way, it’s that story that is really fundamental to winning a Michigan driver’s license restoration or clearance appeal. The 2 things a person must prove, in order to win his or her license back, is that he or she has quit drinking and been alcohol-free for a “sufficient” period of time, and that he or she is a safe bet to never drink again. How a person goes about staying sober is always unique to him or her, because the path of everyone’s recovery is different.
Some people go to counseling, some go to AA, some go to both, and a few go to neither. For some people, AA is a perfect fit. Plenty of others go for a while, but then stop, having gotten what they needed from the program. And for everyone who finds some benefit in AA, there are also lots of people who know that it just isn’t for them after a few meetings, or even after their first. Many sober people report having gone to counseling and/or AA in the past, well before they were ready to quit drinking. Then, something happened that suddenly made them realize they couldn’t drink anymore, and they decided to quit.
Some of these people manage to quit drinking without ever going back to counseling or AA. Lots of these people make clear that, even years later, they could recall the messages, if not the exact words, from their time in counseling and/or AA – the biggest and most important of which is that once you know you have to quit, you have to “stay quit” and can never pick up another drink again. Although there are common elements to everyone’s recovery, like the idea you simply can’t drink again, there are also plenty of things about each person’s recovery that are as unique to him or her as their fingerprints.
Like relapse, for example. Some people quit drinking for a while, and then think that, somehow, things will be “different” and that they can control their drinking, so they try it again.
That never works, ever.
For those who do manage to survive a relapse (a great AA saying about that is “I know I have another drink left in me, but do I have another recovery?”), it can be the greatest and most powerful teacher out there, because suddenly all that stuff they had heard before and were told to believe about NOT drinking again goes from being a matter of faith, and theory, to a matter of getting smacked upside the head by reality.
It’s like putting your hand on the hot stove a second time.
And almost without exception, those who do relapse and recover will always credit their relapse as the best lesson they ever had, and will say it was the biggest reason they know, beyond any doubt, that they can’t ever drink again. These people tend to give great testimony at their license restoration or clearance hearings.
One thing that’s clear to any genuinely sober person who thinks back on his or her troubles with alcohol is that once anyone has to even think about controlling, limiting, or managing their drinking, it means they already have a problem and are long past the point of being any kind of normal drinker. This, unfortunately, is a lesson almost everyone has to learn the hard way.
As if making the decision to quit drinking isn’t hard enough, once a person does decide to quit drinking and get sober, he or she has to understand some very important things in order to remain alcohol-free. This is the kind of stuff that’s very important to the hearing officer.
AA, of course, is the big kid on the block here. Even if a person has never been to a single meeting, some of the program’s principles are basic and fundamental to recovery and can be found in recovery books and in the help provided by substance abuse counselors. Understanding these principles is what matters; actually being in the program is NOT necessary to win a license appeal.
Some of these AA “lessons” are essentially recovery maxims, like the idea that a person in early recovery should “avoid wet faces and wet places.” Beyond that, the message that a person just cannot pick up, and that sobriety must be a first priority, can clearly be heard in many AA “sayings,” a few of which follow:
“Whatever I put before my recovery, I will lose,”
“I didn’t get in trouble every time I drank, but every time I got in trouble, I had been drinking,” and
“One is too many, but a thousand is never enough.”
Perhaps the first order of business for anyone trying to get sober is to stay away from the drinking friends and drinking places.
There is no middle ground here: some people try to quit drinking while still hanging with the old crowd, but that never works in the long run. Either they’ll go back to drinking, or they’ll realize that they just don’t fit in anymore. Not to be indelicate about it, but when people get sober, they quickly realize that a lot of the people they considered “friends” were really only just drinking buddies, anyway.
When a person makes a genuine commitment to get sober, almost every facet of his or her life changes. They ditch the drinking friends and they begin to repair damaged relationships with family and real friends. In time, they earn back the trust and respect of the people who really matter. They begin to feel better, and have a better outlook on life.
The simple truth is that some people find a home in AA or other recovery programs, and some don’t. Others just “move on” to a different place in their lives, and a few actually move to a different place on the map, leaving behind all the bad memories, temptations, and people, for a whole new, fresh start.
What is pretty much “universal,” though, is that everyone who really embraces sobriety transforms themselves, and their lives. If you take a person who has been genuinely sober for at least a year, and compare his or her life now with what it used to be like, before they quit drinking, it will always be a night and day contrast.
This is the kind of stuff we use to win a license restoration appeal.
How much things have changed for the better is a common element to everyone’s recover story. It’s the when, why and how that are all unique. We need to make sure we properly communicate all of this to the Michigan Secretary of State.
For example, the idea of “avoiding wet faces and wet places” doesn’t just mean not going to the bar, it also means big changes in and around the home, as well. For some, it may mean giving up bowling because drinking is part of that, while for others, it may mean joining the church bowling team because nobody drinks in that environment.
Everyone’s recovery is different, and that means that everyone’s recovery story is unique.
For a lot of people, by the time they quit drinking, their families will practically line up to support them, and have no problem removing alcohol from the home and either no longer drinking, or at least keeping any drinking away from the person in recovery.
But not everyone. I’ve met some people who have had to limit family time, or even break family ties, because the family either doesn’t understand recovery, or simply doesn’t care, because drinking was too high a priority for them. Thankfully, these situations are the exception, rather than the rule, but they do exist.
When people really quit drinking, they begin to actually “do” things. Some people go all out, and get into physical fitness, or take up new interests, while others simply re-engage in life in a more laidback way. As the saying goes, “different strokes for different folks…”
One reality that most people can see, though, when they start looking back on their past, is that most of what they did revolved around drinking, and that for as active as they might have thought they had been, it was really more a matter of always drinking, but just doing it in different places and in different settings.
Suddenly, a night on the couch, in front of the TV, holds a lot more interest than just another night getting drunk, even if it’s somewhere different.
Another common benefit to getting sober is that people do better in their work, or in school. It’s very common to hear people credit their sobriety as the key motivating factor to go back to school to finish up a degree, or pursue an advanced degree, or get some kind of industry-specific career or job training. Even people who are solidly employed report that, once sober, they develop a much better work ethic, and recognition of that (along with promotions and raises) often follows.
Sober people almost always report feeling much better after they quit drinking. This goes beyond just feeling better physically; it includes the person’s emotional well-being, and even spiritual health, as well. Sober people are usually happy, or at least happier. Another great AA saying in that regard is that “gratitude is the attitude,” referring to how grateful a person is to be free of alcohol and how much better life is without it.
Some people move forward in sobriety and find religion, while other people don’t. Some find love, or just a sense of purpose in their lives.
When we sit down with our clients and go over this stuff, it becomes clear that this journey from drinker to non-drinker is a story, and a very real one at that. Our job is to help flush that out, and shape it so that it fits within the framework of a winning license appeal. One way to tell is someone is genuinely sober is that they will always have a story to tell, even if they’ve never thought about it that way.
We help bring all of that out. As we go through the last days of a person’s drinking career, what led up to the decision to quit, and what the person did to get and stay sober thereafter, along with all the life changes that followed, a very clear tale emerges. That’s easy for us to do when the client has genuinely quit drinking, but it’s impossible if a person hasn’t.
One of the easiest ways to tell the difference between somebody who is genuinely sober from someone who is not is by their story (or lack of it). As I noted, many people have never thought of the journey from their drinking days to a sober lifestyle as a story, but as we go through all the events that took place, it becomes one, and one of the biggest themes that emerges when speaking with someone who really “gets it” is how much better life is without alcohol.
By contrast, a person who isn’t really “sober,” even if they’ve managed to just stop drinking, can’t talk that way. Instead, the best they can do is say that, by not drinking, they haven’t gotten into any more trouble.
The absence of trouble isn’t the hallmark of sobriety; a better life is.
Although a person can avoid more trouble by not drinking, that’s a lot different than the whole change in a person’s life and attitude that goes with the decision to really get sober. Genuinely sober people don’t talk about just not getting in trouble, they talk about how good things are without alcohol, and how much better they can be. In other words, they look forward, not just backward.
Just as everyone’s recovery is different, so is everyone’s recovery story different.
However, with just that one simple ingredient – real sobriety – we can take a case and make it a winner. In that regard, we put our money where our mouths are, and guarantee to win every first time driver’s license restoration and clearance appeal case we take. A person can’t do better than that, and should never settle for less.
If you are looking to hire a lawyer for a driver’s license restoration or clearance case, do your homework and read around. See how other lawyers explain the process, and how they explain themselves. We can handle your case, no matter where you live, as long as it’s a Michigan revocation or hold that’s at issue.
All of our consultations are free, confidential, and, best of all, 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. 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.