Treatment and Relapse History for Driver's License Restoration
A relapse can feel like a significant event in a person’s life, but it is not about what you did, but what you do going forward that makes all the difference. Chances are something stressful was going on in your life, and you chose to fall back into old habits instead of using the new skills and coping strategies you have been learning about in recovery. Recovery is a life-long journey. You can think about recovery like a new ship being put in the water. There is no end destination, it just powers from port to port until the end of its life. Every day on the water is a success. However, a relapse is like a ship that starts taking on water. It might not sink right away, but it is a sign that something in your recovery program is seriously wrong. If you are working a great sobriety program, there is no life event or calamity that you cannot get through sober.
The Case For Someone Who Does Not Believe They Have A Drinking Problem
The first step in Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is “We admitted that we were powerless over alcohol and our lives had become unmanageable.” This is a huge step that no one can force you to take. It is a popular saying in AA that the first step is the only step that you must do perfectly, and the only one you must do every day. However, a person can only take the first step if they are ready and willing. So what does that mean for someone who does not believe they have a drinking problem, but still wants to get their driver’s license back? Let us look at the law to understand the realities of what we are up against and what we need to prove to get you a driver’s license back.
Habitual Offender Status
If you are applying for a driver’s license restoration, then you have had your driver’s license revoked. More than likely you either have two drinking and driving offenses in seven years or three or more drinking and driving offenses in ten years. Under MCL 257.303 two or more drinking and driving convictions in a period of seven years qualify a person as a “Habitual Offender.” Therefore, if you are applying to get your license restored, then there is a good chance that you are going to be viewed as a “Habitual Offender.” So, whether or not you believe you have a problem with alcohol, it is important to realize that for the purposes of your driver’s license restoration you will be viewed as having a problem with alcohol.
Let’s take some time to look at both of the elements that must be proved and the standard of proof the elements must be proved by. The hearing will be performed by the Office of Hearings of Administrative Oversight by the Secretary of State. This office was formerly called the Administrative Hearings Section (AHS). A hearing officer will preside over the hearing like a judge and decide about whether he or she should issue you a restricted driver’s license.
These are the things a person, considered a “habitual offender”, must prove at the license appeal hearing:
- His or her alcohol and/or substance abuse problems are under control and are likely to remain under control
- He or she represents a low or minimal risk of drinking or being under the influence of illicit drugs while driving
- He or she has the ability and motivation to drive safely and within the law
- He or she has the minimum period of abstinence of one year
Standard of Proof
You have probably heard that a prosecutor must prove all the elements of a crime beyond a reasonable doubt to meet his or her burden of proof. However, you may not have heard that the standard of proof for many administrative hearings is clear and convincing evidence. This has been described as requiring evidence that is substantially more likely to be true than untrue. It is a lower standard of proof than beyond a reasonable doubt, but a higher standard of proof than by a preponderance of the evidence. Therefore, we need to prove all of the four elements above by clear and convincing evidence by demonstrating each is more likely to be true than not.
Shoring up the Leaks: Action, Results, and Documentation
A relapse will not prevent you from getting your driver’s license back. However, it will create more questions about whether you are likely to remain sober. Therefore, we need to prove by clear and convincing evidence that you have met the one-year sobriety requirement, and that your drinking is likely to remain under control. If you have a history of relapse, that will mean that we need to provide strong additional evidence in support of your sobriety. Evidence in support of sobriety is going to be a key component of your hearing request packet and proving that you have put lasting measures in place to ensure you have developed the skills, coping mechanisms, and support network necessary to continue a life of sobriety. Our driver's license reinstatement attorneys will work with you to help you assemble the best package of evidence possible. This package of evidence will contain a substance abuse evaluation, a 10 panel drug screen, evidence of documented sobriety, and evidence of supporting sobriety. This will show the hearing officer that your relapse was just a step on your way to success, and your drinking problems are in the rearview mirror.
Evidence in Support of Sobriety: AA, Self-Management And Recovery Training (SMART) Meetings, and Counseling
The three main pieces of evidence in support of sobriety are AA, Self-Management and Recovery Training (SMART) meetings, and counseling. There is no magic bullet when it comes to finding the right mix. However, no matter which direction you go, it is about building a sober network of support that you can rely on through the good times and the bad to keep you sober. AA is considered the “gold standard” when it comes to documenting sobriety. Regular AA attendance of one or two meetings a week will go a long way to reassuring the hearing officer that he is making a good decision to put you back on the road. Do the next right thing, and take it a day at a time. Make sure to print out an AA attendance sheet from the internet and get your meeting attendance sheet signed at every meeting you attend.
Finding a Sponsor
They say in AA that it is a program of action, so finding a sponsor will show that you are putting the steps into action. Finding a sponsor is easy. Plus, it will drastically help your recovery program and provide excellent evidence for both your documentation of sobriety and evidence in support of sobriety. AA is a program of attraction not promotion. Therefore, you should try to find a meeting you like and go up and talk to someone who has said something that you like. The twelfth step of AA is all about helping the newcomer, so anyone with long term sobriety should be more than happy to help you. It is not uncommon for a person to offer to be your “temporary sponsor” while you look for a long-term sponsor. This can be a great way to get started, but more often than not it is a way to take the pressure off you both and see if it is a good fit. Often, your temporary sponsor will turn into your long-term sponsor.
Another simple way to find a sponsor is to raise your hand when they ask if there are any newcomers or people new to sobriety at the beginning of a meeting. If you do this, then they will have a “first step meeting”, and everyone will share their experience, strength, and hope about how they got sober. They may also give you a newcomer’s packet that includes a list of everyone’s phone number and a Big Book. Someone will typically ask if you have a sponsor after the meeting.
Finally, another way to find a sponsor is to ask if anyone would be interested in sponsoring you during your opportunity to share during the meeting. Simply say a few words about yourself and let them know that you are new to the program and looking for a sponsor. If you hang around after the meeting someone will almost always come up and talk to you about sponsorship.
Working with a sponsor demonstrates commitment, and having the wisdom of experience of someone with five or more years of sobriety will give you a huge advantage to win, thrive, and prosper in life. You can ask your sponsor for a reference letter that will serve as evidence to document your sobriety. He or she can talk about your work with the 12 steps and your commitment to working a solid recovery program.
SMART Recovery and Counseling
AA attendance is not a requirement, and you do not need to go to AA or have a sponsor to succeed in your license restoration. It is not uncommon for people to have objections or reservations about AA. Often, people do not want to do AA, because they have religious objections or they just do not believe it is a good fit for them. In recent years the Secretary of State has softened on AA as a requirement. Alternatives such as SMART recovery attendance in combination with drug and alcohol abuse counseling have gained popularity and success.
SMART recovery meetings are a relatively new form of non-12 step support group meetings for recovery and abstinence from drugs and alcohol. The key difference is that the group meetings will focus on the science of recovery. There have been many advancements in the science and understanding of addiction. For example, the way that neural pathways are worn down like grooves in the brain that need to be rewired to conquer addiction. Typical SMART recovery meetings will focus on many topics, including healthy coping strategies for impulse control like hiking, reading, and working out.
2. Relapse Prevention
The truth is your thinking has to change, and you need to believe that you are capable of doing everything sober. There are millions of alcoholics and people in recovery who do it every day. No matter what the challenge, obstacle, or tragedy is, there is never anything big enough worth taking a drink over. You can make it through the loss of a job, the loss of a marriage, even the loss of a loved one sober. Stress, financial hardship or professional disappointment are just things you go through and are part of life. None of them are worth giving up your sobriety over. The important thing to remember is that a ship doesn’t make it to every port at once, life’s journey happens one day at a time.
Avoiding The Sneaky Slip: Sobriety During the Good Times
If you are new to sobriety then getting through a difficult challenge sober might seem like an obvious challenge, but another thing you have to look out for is the urge to drink during the good times. Maybe everything is going so well that you think you have earned a drink and celebrating with a beer is a good idea. A drink at a loved one’s wedding is another common cause of relapse. Alcoholism is cunning, baffling, and powerful and there is a reason these “sneaky slips” cause so many people to relapse and start the clock all over. Be aware of the sneaky slips and keep moving forward. Do the next right thing and you will continue to move forward and see the promises of AA come true in your life.
Bringing It All Together: Evidence, the Hearing, and Success
All of the work you do will pay off at the substance abuse evaluation, and ultimately at the driver’s restoration hearing. Once we get you all lined up, you will be in a position to win. We will help you submit your hearing request packet and you will get your hearing date in the mail within two to three months. We have presented cases to every hearing officer in the state and understand the particular proclivities of each individual hearing officer.
We will be sure you are prepped and ready to answer all the questions the hearing officer may ask of you. We will guide you every step of the way. If we do not win the first time, we guarantee we will represent you free of charge until we get your driver’s license restored. It is difficult to state the value of superb legal representation, but the reason we win 97% of our driver’s license restoration hearings first time out is because of our professionalism, experience, and dedication to presenting the best evidence as well as possible.
If you are serious about getting your license back and are ready to take the most important step, call 1-800-677-9795 right now to schedule a free consultation and let us put our 97% win rate to work for you!