How Can AA Affect My Michigan Suspended or Revoked Driver's License Case?
Losing your license can be a devastating hardship. Dealing with life, work, and family without the ability to transport yourself to where you need to be is a difficult challenge. We understand that getting you back on the road is not just a luxury or convenience, but an absolute necessity. The process of driver’s license restoration may seem like a maze of documents and forms, and figuring out how AA fits in the scheme of things may seem a bit daunting. AA can play an important role in getting your suspended or revoked driver’s license in Michigan reinstated or restored. We will discuss having your license suspended, driver’s license restoration, and how AA and evidence supporting your sobriety fits into winning your driver’s restoration hearing and getting your license back.
Suspended Driver’s License
If your driver’s license was suspended due to a first drinking and driving offense, then AA will be much less significant than if you have had a second Operating While Intoxicated (OWI) and your license was revoked. After a second drinking and driving offense you are considered a habitual offender and your license will be revoked. However, if you have only a first OWI, then you will have your license suspended for 180 days, but it is only a hard suspension for the first 30 days. This means zero driving for the first 30 days. If you have no additional violations during the 30-day suspension, then you will be issued a restricted driver’s license. You will have to complete 150 days on a restricted license without a Breath Alcohol Ignition Interlock Device (BAIID) before you can get your full driving privileges back. If you get through both periods without any additional drinking and driving incidents, or restricted license violations, then you will have your full driver’s license privileges reinstated after you pay a $125 driver’s license reinstatement fee.
Brief Explanation of The Driver’s License Restoration Process
After you gather all of the necessary documents, evidence, and forms, you will need to submit a hearing request to the Office of Hearings and Administrative Oversight. This Office was formerly called the Administrative Hearings Section. After you request your hearing, you will receive a hearing date in the mail within two to three months.
Before we get into the different forms of evidence in support of sobriety, let us look briefly at the elements we need to prove to the hearing officer.
To get your license back, you will need to prove to the hearing officer the following four elements by clear and convincing evidence:
- Your alcohol or substance abuse problems are under control
- Your substance or alcohol abuse problems are likely to stay under control
- You’re at low or minimal risk of drinking and driving again
- You have the ability and motivation to drive safely and within the law
After a second drinking and driving offense you will be categorized as a “habitual offender”. This means you will have to build a record to demonstrate that your alcohol or substance abuse problems are under control and likely to remain under control. You will want to show that you have taken ownership of your sobriety program, and put steps and measures in place to make sure you can handle whatever life throws at you without taking a drink. Navigate over to the What You Need to Prove at Your Hearing section to learn more.
Next, we will talk about the strengths of AA, and how it will help you convince a hearing officer that you are likely to remain sober. We will also talk about initial resistance to AA and provide a primer on how a recovery program in AA works. However, since AA is not for everyone, we will also discuss AA alternatives. There are two other primary alternatives for building a successful recovery program and providing the evidence in support of your sobriety for your driver’s restoration hearing. They are Self-Management and Recovery Training (SMART) meetings and drug and alcohol counseling. We will discuss both alternatives and what you can expect from them.
Alcoholics Anonymous (AA): The “Gold Standard” Of Recovery and Evidence in Support of Sobriety
There is one reason why hearing officer’s typically hold AA in such high regard. AA has a proven track record of getting people sober and keeping them that way. They say in the program that it is a program for living. In many ways that is very true, because it is more than just learning how not to drink, but how to get along with people and prosper while not drinking. There is a concept in AA that if you are restless, irritable, and discontent, then you might be close to a drink. The program teaches people to practice gratitude and fellowship at times like this. By being thankful for what you do have, it is difficult to be discontented with what you don’t have or what you might have lost from drinking. This is the type of wisdom and practical application of life skills that AA teaches, and is the primary reason why it is held in such high esteem by the Secretary of State and hearing officers. Quite simply, if you are working a solid recovery program with a sponsor, there is a greatly reduced chance that you are likely to relapse and drink and drive.
Resistance To AA: Getting over the Hump
Most people have an initial resistance to AA. We are going to talk a little bit about the different kinds of resistance, and try to offer some different perspectives. One of the things newcomers often say is that it feels like people are talking down to them. The truth is you will not like everything you hear in AA. It is about taking the things that you can use and apply to your life to get stronger. If someone says something you don’t like, then you can ignore them and go on looking for the pearls of wisdom. Another thing to consider is that you may just be starting out on your journey in recovery, and there will be people in the room with 25 years of sobriety. These people can often come across like they are speaking from a “high horse”, but really, they are just doing their best to share their wisdom, strength, and hope with everyone they come into contact with. Now, let’s talk about finding the people who you want to listen to.
There are not many people that will likely be convinced of the efficacy of AA by being told how great it is; instead, it attracts people into the program when people start seeing people that have what they want. AA is a program of attraction not promotion. In How It Works from the Big Book, it reads, “if you have decided you want what we have and are willing to go to any length to get it – then you are ready to take certain steps.” This means that you seek out people that have what you want, and work the 12 steps with them. The real magic of the program is that people are willing to tell you exactly how to do it. If you meet a guy who has a beautiful wife, two kids, a house, and a thriving business then you might want to listen to what he has to say. You will find that at the foundation of the program, you will hear the same things from all manner of successful people that you should go to meetings, work with a sponsor, and don’t drink in between meetings.
There are five basic components that make up a solid AA program: meeting attendance, sponsorship, 12 step work, fellowship, and daily literature. We will briefly discuss each one and how it can work together to build a comprehensive recovery program and the trail of evidence to help you win your driver’s license back at your driver’s restoration hearing.
It is not uncommon for people to strongly dislike AA meetings when they first start. After some reflection and the benefit of time, people often explain it as though they thought everyone was being fake, or seeing how happy people were made them angry. Sometimes, the AA sayings rub people the wrong way – there are a lot of them. However, if you have an emotional reaction to what you are hearing, then it might mean that it is probably working and you need to go to more meetings. Another saying in the program is that you don’t need to act on your emotions. Those feelings will go away, and as you start to let go of the resentments that have been holding you back, a wonderful new life in sobriety is waiting for you.
The promises of AA talk about how you are going to know a new freedom and happiness, you will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it, and you will comprehend the word serenity. This is not just a song and dance, these are things that millions of people have seen come true in their own lives. Another promise that is generally popular is that you will be free from financial insecurity. When you live in sobriety things just keep getting better. Hearing officers understand this, and that is why they place such a tremendous value on AA attendance. It will also be valuable for your substance abuse evaluation. Chances are if you are on probation, you are already required to attend AA. Make sure to get your slips signed at every meeting to build the paper trail of your sobriety and help build the case of your continued sobriety.
Sponsorship, 12 Step Work, and AA Literature
Sponsorship and 12 step work go hand in hand. So, finding a sponsor you are comfortable with is important. You may end up talking to your sponsor frequently, and will almost certainly have some deeply personal conversations when you complete your fourth and fifth step. Therefore, finding the right sponsor that speaks your language is important. It is not uncommon to go through two or three sponsors before you find the right one. Consequently, do not be afraid to “fire” a sponsor if he or she is not working out.
The easiest way to find a sponsor is to go to a meeting and when it is your time to share, announce you are new to the program and looking for a sponsor. If you have done this, wait around for a few minutes after the meeting and someone is almost sure to come up to you and exchange information. Another way is at the beginning of the meeting, raise your hand if they ask if anyone is there for their first meeting. They will then have a “first step meeting” where everyone shares their experience of how they got sober, and will pass around a sheet of paper that everyone who is willing to help will put their phone number on it. That way you can listen to people’s stories and choose to call one or more of the people who said something that connected with you.
Once you find a sponsor you will start to work the steps. The first three can go rather quickly, but it will be up to you and your sponsor to decide how quickly you want to work the steps. They say it is a program of action, and this is where the rubber meets the road. Having a sponsor shows a great commitment to your sobriety, and will impress the substance abuse evaluator and the hearing officer. Your sponsor will also be very likely to write you a letter of support to document your sobriety. This is a valuable piece of evidence that can contribute to winning your driver’s license restoration hearing. Your sponsor will also introduce you to AA literature, and it is also likely that your sponsor will give you selected reading assignments to help your growth and development in the program.
The “Big Book” is the main text of alcoholics anonymous, and was written by the founders of the program Bill and Bob in 1939. The first 164 pages are the “meet and potatoes” of AA, and there are also over a dozen personal stories of tragedy and triumph in the back of the book. Another great book when you are looking for something lighter is the Daily Reflections book. The Daily Reflections book has a short reading that corresponds to every day of the year. It can be a great way to start a day or to refocus yourself on what is important in your life. There are numerous other books that are related to AA like the 12 Steps and 12 Traditions, As Bill Sees It, and Drop the Rock. Reading AA literature is part of any complete AA recovery program, but it is also great evidence of your sobriety to a hearing officer. Being able to talk about what you have learned reading will demonstrate a seriousness and commitment to staying sober. It is not uncommon for a hearing officer to ask questions about your step work, or the steps of AA.
In AA they say, I drink, and we stay sober. Fellowship is about learning to have fun and get along with other people without the social lubricant of alcohol. You might hear people talk about the meeting before the meeting, and the meeting after the meeting, but that just means socializing with people. It is common to go out to eat, get coffee, and just talk, laugh, and joke about life, work, and family. As you get involved and build relationships it is not uncommon to get invited to things like Thanksgiving dinner, Superbowl parties, or a day at the beach. It is during the fellowship that you will really give the program a chance to take hold of your life in a meaningful way. As you grow and bond with people you may begin to see small changes in your life and outlook. Having a good attitude and regularly socializing with sober people in AA is a great way to demonstrate a commitment to your sobriety. Talking about these kinds of events to your substance abuse evaluator and also the hearing officer will show great personal growth and a tremendous commitment to your recovery.
AA Wrap Up
You will get out of it what you put into it. If you go in with a good attitude and a willingness to learn, then there is a good chance that you will find the short cuts to success that can turbo charge your life. Even if you do not find it to be life altering, it will still be extremely valuable evidence toward winning your driver’s license restoration hearing and getting your driver’s license back.
AA Alternatives: SMART Recovery and Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counseling
AA is absolutely not necessary to win your driver’s license restoration hearing. Some people find that it is not a good fit for them. Fortunately, Self-Management and Recovery Training (SMART) and drug and alcohol abuse counseling are viable alternatives to AA. SMART recovery is a relatively new form of non-12 step support group for recovery and abstinence from drugs and alcohol. The hallmark of SMART recovery is that it uses science to take advantage of the advancements and understanding of neuroscience and addiction. Essentially, addiction wears down the reward circuitry in your brain like grooves in a track until it can be difficult to avoid the reward pathway. By rewiring your brain using positive coping mechanisms like exercise, reading, and hiking it is possible to beat addiction and take control of your life. SMART recovery is also a free support group and meetings usually run about a half an hour longer than traditional hour AA meetings.
Drug and Alcohol counseling is another viable alterative to support groups. Although hearing officers typically like to see support group attendance and it may be required by probation, you can win a driver’s license restoration hearing with regular meetings with a drug and alcohol counselor. The drawback is that a certified drug and alcohol abuse counselor will be significantly more costly than AA or SMART Recovery. If you get a reference letter from your drug and alcohol abuse counselor, it will show the hearing officer that you have taken the issue seriously and made a concerted effort towards fixing the problems.
Self-Sustaining Abstinence Without AA
Although AA and counseling are great options for some people, they are not for everyone. Many individuals remain sober and alcohol free simply by making self-changes on their own with the support of friends and family. In essence friends and family are the “sponsor” and are just as powerful as AA or an alcohol counselor to remain alcohol and drug free. With the proper guidance this proves to be a strong method to be successful in retaining your driving privileges.
Contact Us Today
Grabel & Associates understands how difficult and overwhelming the process of driver’s license restoration in Michigan can be. That is why we take the utmost care with each client and take pride in each victory. We have built our incredible 97% success rate, by putting individualized care and attention into each client. Contact us today for your free consultation, so we can get you back on the road to success. We are available 24/7 at 1-800-677-9795.