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If there is one thing that defines my Driver’s License Restoration Practice, it’s the requirement that a person must really be sober before I will take their case and file a License Appeal. In exchange for that commitment to Sobriety, I provide a first-time win Guarantee. Fully understanding this involves a lot more than seeing the words “Guarantee” and “sober.” Perhaps the single biggest obstacle to my taking any particular case is that a person just doesn’t “get it.”

Accordingly, the whole concept of “getting it” is central to winning your License back.

It all begins with how you define “Sobriety.” The first and biggest mistake anyone can make, at least within the world of Driver’s License Appeals, is to think of the term “sober” as simply meaning “not drunk.” In order to win a License Appeal, a person has to prove, by what the State (meaning the Michigan Secretary of State’s Driver Assessment and Appeal Division, or “DAAD”) defines as “clear and convincing evidence,” that his or her alcohol problem “is under control, and likely to remain under control.”

The short translation is that you have to prove you’re a safe be to never drink again. And that means, in part, that you have to convince the Hearing Officer deciding your case that you are, in fact, convinced you can never drink again. That’s just part of the equation, however. In a way, that’s like understanding that one plus one equals two. You have to understand that before you can conceptually move on to more complex equations.

When someone really “gets it,” they come to understand that “Sobriety” means more than just “not drinking.” It really involves a state of mind and a state of being. People who have really gotten sober learn, accept and understand that “Sobriety” is defined by the commitment to forever avoid consuming or using ANY substance that has a potential of abuse or addiction, or that can alter one’s mind or mood. Sober people don’t “occasionally” drink, or “occasionally” take a hit off of a joint. If you’re really sober, then you know that, with limited and very controlled medically necessitated exceptions, you cannot take certain kinds of medications, like tranquilizers or narcotic pain medication.

If you’re really “sober,” then you understand, within the core of your being, that you can never drink again. Not once, not ever, not a drop. If you think that there is any kind of exception to this, then you don’t really “get it.” That doesn’t make you a bad person, it just means that you haven’t yet internalized the kind of concept of “Sobriety” that is required to win a License Appeal. From the DAAD’s point of view, and really, from the perspective of any Substance Abuse Counselor, it also means that you are at risk. Think of it like smoking. When a person quits, they quit for good. You’ll never meet a person that is truly an “ex-smoker” who still has the occasional cigarette. We all know what happens when a person who has supposedly quit smoking has a cigarette; either that person takes a drag and tosses it aside and says “the heck with this,” or they start back up. There is no middle ground.

The same holds true for someone with a drinking problem. As the DAAD (and pretty much the rest of the world) sees it, the ONLY way to move past a drinking problem is to never drink again. That also means accepting that you can never get a “buzz” again. While it sounds redundant, “Sobriety” necessarily involves embracing being sober, except on a permanent basis. Sobriety necessarily involves changing your whole lifestyle. It means getting rid of drinking friends, getting alcohol out of your home, and living very differently as a non-drinker than you did as a drinker.

The bottom line is that, as a kind of litmus test, I need to know if you really get it. In that regard, you either do, or you don’t. It’s important to remember, though, that every single person who now “gets it” did not “get it,” at some point before. A person has to move from not getting it to getting it. Thus, any particular person simply might not be there yet.

If you “get it,” and fundamentally understand that you can never drink or get high again, nor can you use any potentially addictive, mind or mood-altering medications, then we can move forward and get you back on the road. If you’re not quite there yet, keep working on it. As a well-known ancient Chinese proverb that reminds us, “The Journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”