The First Meeting
The first time you and I meet, we’ll spend about 3 hours just preparing you to undergo the substance abuse evaluation. Almost every time someone hears this, they say something like “3 hours?” as if they think they might have heard incorrectly.
Yes, our first meeting will last about 3 hours.
“About,” in this sense, means that, once in a while, when there is a real time-crunch, I can really speed things up and get our first meeting done in 2 hours and 45 minutes. Other times, when there is no rush, it takes 3 and ½ hours. Most of the time though, that first meeting takes a solid 3 hours.
It has to be this way.
Winning a License Appeal the first time around takes work. Details aren’t just important; they’re critical. The one detail that I don’t negotiate, and that separates me from most every other attorney, is that I require a person to really have quit drinking before I’ll take his or her case. Once a person has undergone the profound and life-changing transition from drinker to non-drinker, their life story picks up lots of “details.” This part of a person’s life story is what I call their recovery story.
An important part of what we go over during those first 3 hours is that story. Some people seem to always have their recovery story right at the tip of their tongue, and can reel it off on cue. Often, these are people active in AA, where telling one’s “story” is rather regular occurrence.
A little more than half of my Clients, however, aren’t currently active in AA. While these people are living the sober lifestyle, they haven’t really had any reason to think deeply about or organize their story in a kind of linear format for a long time, if ever. Yet this story is central to a license restoration case. Therefore, it becomes my job to take a person back down memory lane and help them put the words to the story of how they made the decision to quit drinking. I really do this; this isn’t some appealing description that just sounds good. I’ve had plenty of people get emotional and cry as we go over these details, including some pretty big and strong guys. I keep a box of tissues right on my conference table just for those moments.
The real point of a license appeal is proving that your alcohol problem “is under control and likely to remain under control.” To the Administrative Hearing Section (AHS), that more or less translates to convincing a Hearing Officer that you are yourself convinced that you can never drink again. It means showing that your are, in fact, a safe bet to never drink again.
In the real world, this requires digging into your past, right to the point of your “a-ha” moment, when it hit you like a ton of bricks that you had to quit drinking. This is way different than just “knowing,” or intellectually understanding that your drinking is causing problems. What we’re looking to recapture is that punch in the gut moment when you hit bottom, or as the AA people say, became “sick and tired of being sick and tired.”
You don’t get there by filling out intake forms, or by merely talking about the legalities of the license appeal process. With more than 28 years of experience, I know the legalities very well. In fact, there’s probably not a “legality” I don’t know like the back of my hand. But that’s only half the story.
The other half is your story. What made you decide to quit drinking? Is or was AA any part of that, or not? If not, then how do you frame your story in a world that still tilts, at least a little bit, in favor of AA? I help you answer these questions. Beyond being a license restoration attorney, I am also involved in the formal study of alcohol and addiction issues, including the diagnosis and treatment of alcohol problems. I speak the language of treatment professionals, and I speak the language of attorneys. This allows me to translate your recovery story into the proper legal terms needed to convince a hearing officer (also an attorney, technically called an administrative law examiner), that your alcohol problem is “under control, and likely to remain under control.” This is how we win your license back.
In order to even begin to do this, and to guarantee a win, however, it starts with a first meeting that lasts 3 hours. There are no shortcuts to properly handling a license appeal. Beyond money, you have to be willing to invest yourself, heart and soul, as well as your time. If you’re sober, I’m ready to do just that. The question then becomes, are you?