In part 1 of this article, we began exploring the critical role of recovery and sobriety in a Michigan driver’s license restoration or clearance appeal. The first consideration for winning your license back is proving that you have quit drinking for a sufficient period of time, and are a safe bet to never drink again. Without that, you have no chance to win. The Michigan Secretary of State (SOS) has zero interest in how long you’ve been without a license, how much you “need” one, or anything like that. The main focus of the license appeal process is about proving that you’re sober, not just that you’ve stopped drinking.
There are plenty of people that stop drinking for a while, but for that to become permanent, meaning in order for someone to go from merely being abstinent to being genuinely sober, some fundamental changes have to take place from within. Getting sober requires altering a lot of things in one’s life. This is reflected in one of the most important bits of advice a person will hear in AA: “Avoid wet faces and wet places.”
Simply put, this means that a person in early recovery should stay away from bars and places where people gather to drink, and also stay away from people who drink. That doesn’t require a person to cut out any and everyone out of their life who enjoys a glass of wine once in a while, but it does mean that they can’t be hanging with people for whom drinking is a primary activity, or hanging out with them when they do drink.
In early recovery, it’s best to simply avoid anything to do with drinking. Out of sight, out of mind, as the saying goes…
To be sure, getting sober requires ditching the drinking friends. When people get sober, they realize that there’s a huge difference between real friends and drinking buddies, and never miss them, anyway
If a guy plays poker on Thursdays with the guys and they drink all night long, then getting sober spells the end of that. Nor can a person trying to make a go of sobriety sit in on the game, and just plan to drink Coke, instead. That may work a few times, but….
As another AA saying advises: “If you hang around the barbershop long enough, you’re going to get a haircut.”
The first and most obvious change a person needs to make in early recovery is to avoid any environment where they used to drink. That entails a lot more changes for some people than others, but for everyone, it means they can’t be hanging out with the same party friends and try to be the one sober person.
Sooner or later, a person is likely to figure, “Okay, I’ll just have one.” That never works. Read: NEVER.
You will never, ever, ever meet anyone who had a drinking problem but got over it and now drinks normally. Once someone crosses a line and drinking becomes a problem, it will forever be a problem. A drinking problem can go into remission, but it’s always there and roars back to life if a person picks up.
People who are really sober understand that there is victory in surrender, and when they throw in the towel and write off ever drinking forever, it’s like they’ve beaten the issue for good. It’s very different, however, for those who are locked in some internal struggle about whether they could, maybe, have a drink or 2 for some special occasion, or have a glass of wine with dinner; they’re stuck in the proverbial hamster wheel.
As a client of mine once explained, the very second you even have to think about controlling, limiting or otherwise managing your drinking, you’re past the point of being a normal drinker. Normal drinkers don’t have to “regulate” themselves. They are normal drinkers because, without trying, they drink normally.
This made sense to me when I thought about it in terms of gambling. I had never been to a casino before, and although I have zero interest in gambling, after the casinos opened in Detroit, I was curious, so I decided to check them out. I walked in, expecting to see James Bond in a tuxedo and all kinds of high rollers; instead, I was met by the stale reek of a million cigarettes and saw mostly people who should have been spending their money on anything other than slot machines and such.
At any rate, I tried a few slots, played one hand of blackjack, and spent a total of about 10 minutes gambling. I knew right away it wasn’t for me. I HATE losing money. In fact, I’d rather make paper airplanes out of my money and watch it fly away instead of just throwing it down the drain at a casino.
Over the years, I’ve talked to people in various contexts who talked about spending a night at the casino, or going to Vegas. If I’d respond by saying something like I can’t afford to lose my money (in such a way to just make small talk), some would go on to explain that they only take as much money with them as they can afford to lose, and they leave their credit card behind, so once they’re out, they’re out.
That attempt to limit one’s losses is proof of a problem.
If you stuck me in a casino with $10,000 cash all night long, there is NO chance I’d lose more than $10 or $20 of it. It would never cross my mind to have to “limit” how much I could gamble, because gambling isn’t a problem for me.
However, anyone who DOES have to think about controlling their wagers clearly has an issue with betting, in the same way, that anyone who has to think about controlling their drinking has an issue with alcohol. In fact, an attempt to cut down or control one’s drinking is an actual clinical marker of a problem.
Although not specific to recovery, there is another saying that really boils this down: “Anything that causes a problem IS a problem.” When a person starts racking up DUI’s, alcohol is always the common denominator. And most people have to admit that they honestly said, after their first DUI, that they’d never do get another.
And then they did.
In other words, once a person has developed a troubled relationship to alcohol, all the attempts to control, limit or manage one’s drinking is doomed to fail.
By contrast, what all successful recovery protocols have in common is that they rely on a simple fix: DO NOT DRINK ANYMORE. That always fixes the problem. Moreover, it’s the ONLY “fix” the Michigan Secretary of State recognizes.
The minute someone tries to explain that they don’t drink like they used to, or only do it once in a while, for special occasions, or in any way admits to consuming any alcohol whatsoever, it’s game over for a license appeal. There is no way the state is ever going to consider giving a license back to any such person.
If I’m talking to someone and I hear anything like that, my mind closes, I stop listening, and begin thinking of how to quickly and politely end the conversation, because that person just doesn’t get it.
Usually, people who are really sober will be among the first to agree that there is no way to “manage” one’s drinking, and will go on to explain how real recovery requires ditching the drinking friends and changing activities.
This involves a lot more than avoiding the mere temptation to drink: nobody who is sober wants to be around a bunch of sloppy drunks. In fact, over the years, many of my clients have said that interactions with drunk people help remind them of how much better it is to be sober.
Real sobriety goes well beyond just not drinking, and avoiding wet faces and wet places. Sober people understand that sobriety is like a living thing that needs to be nurtured. For example, a person in recovery is supposed to tell his or her doctor about it so that they don’t get prescribed any potentially habit-forming or mind or mood-altering medication.
Of course, not everyone tells every treating physician all the details of their substance use history, but even someone with an upper respiratory infection has to make sure they don’t wind up filling a prescription for a cough suppressant that contains codeine. A single use of the wrong medication can trigger a relapse.
The Secretary of State is also concerned about anyone who has ADD, ADHD, or has to take anything like an anti-anxiety or mood stabilizing medication. Beyond the fact that a person should be taking care of his or her recovery, the state won’t give a license back to anyone on any kind of risky medications unless the person can show that the prescribing physician is aware of his or her substance abuse history, understands the implications of that, and is monitoring him or her accordingly.
As a practical matter, this means that, as the lawyer, I must explain certain things to the physician, including exactly what to include in a letter that I’ll need him or her to provide. After years of doing this, I’ve learned that in order to get it done right, we can’t rely on a busy doctor to say all the right things, and that the results are better when we take charge. Usually, I wind up writing the letter for the doctor’s signature.
Of course, this is a moot point if a person hasn’t shared the fact that he or she is in recovery with their physician. More than that, it also shows a lack of understanding of what sobriety means, and how to maintain it. People who are properly schooled in recovery know this. That’s not to fault anyone who doesn’t yet know this, but these are the kinds of things I have to look out for when screening potential license restoration clients, and the kinds of things I have to “teach” my clients so that they can satisfactorily explain themselves later on.
Fortunately, I am uniquely able to do this. Beyond the specific focus of my legal work, I completed a formal, post-graduate program of addiction studies. I know recovery and sobriety inside and out. Because addiction and recovery are at the very heart of the work my team and I do day-in and day-out, we know what we’re doing well enough to guarantee to win every driver’s license restoration and clearance case we take.
That all starts, however, with only taking cases for people who have honestly quit drinking. We’ve learned how to screen rather well, because it is of course, rather easy for someone to simply say they’ve quit. That, in fact, is why I often say “honestly quit drinking.”
The hearing officer’s job is to be skeptical. Remember, Rule 13 orders that the hearing officer “shall not” issue a license, meaning that the state is so ready for people who are technically eligible to try and BS their way through the process that the answer to every appeal starts out with a “no,” leaving the burden on the person to prove his or her sobriety.
When a client is genuinely sober, my team and I have the necessary ingredients to make the case a winner, guaranteed. Sober people understand that this is a somewhat demanding process, and that it will require time and patience. This kind of attitude is pretty obvious, and is quite the opposite of what you’ll find in someone who hasn’t made the profound life changes that come with real sobriety.
Sometimes, however, a person may need a little incentive, or even a little “push” to finally tip the scales in favor of a decision to quit drinking. For all the things my team and I can do legally to win a case, we’re always happy to speak with someone, listen, and help them mull things over so that they can, finally, put the plug in the jug, find out just how great sobriety really is, and put themselves on a path to get their license back down the road.
If you need to win your license back or get a clearance of a Michigan hold on your driving record, and are looking to hire a lawyer to help you do that, be a good consumer and do your homework. Read around, and see how other lawyers explain the license appeal process.
Beyond guaranteeing to win every license restoration or clearance case we take, we’re really friendly people who will be glad to answer your questions and explain things. I want everyone to be a good consumer and do some comparison shopping, then ring my office. All of our consultations are free, confidential, and done over the phone, right when you call. You can reach us my office Monday through Friday, from 8:30 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. (EST), at 586-465-1980.