When Your Drinking has Become a Problem
Whether or not a person has the “makings” of a drinking problem, the fact is that, absent a long, private struggle with alcohol, no one who gets a 1st offense DUI, or a High BAC charge, goes through something like an impact panel, and suddenly has an “a-ha” moment. Unfortunately, for those destined to have a struggle with alcohol, a 1st DUI will generally only result in a personal affirmation to never let that happen again. This means, of course, that there is no commitment to stop drinking, principally because the person doesn’t see any need to stop drinking. Instead, the person becomes intent on making sure they drink responsibly, and never put themselves in the situation to drink and drive again. It makes sense that almost everyone convicted of a 1st offense DUI will try to do what’s necessary to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
And then it does.
For some, the light bulb goes off automatically. These people find that their 2nd (or 3rd) DUI arrest is undeniable proof that they have a drinking problem. These people have a “high bottom.” It certainly stands to reason that everyone convicted of a 1st Offense DUI has assured themselves, and probably every important person in their lives, that it will never happen again. The same thing holds true for anyone convicted a 2nd time.
And it is usually at that moment that some people, already concerned about their drinking, but trying their best to control or manage it, realize that picking up another DUI represents, however unpleasant that reality may be, the apex of their ability to control or manage their drinking. Their best response to the need to drink responsibly is to drink too much and drive, and then get caught again, on top of all that. In these cases, what seems obvious to everyone else suddenly becomes obvious to the person caught in the middle of it. It’s at this point that these “high bottom” people throw down the gauntlet and say, “enough is enough.” This can be a wonderful point from which to get help and make thinks much better in a 2nd or 3rd offense DUI.
A 2nd or 3rd offense DUI is going to change some things in your life. Unless the case is knocked out of court, the Judge must order counseling. I can help you proactively get into the kind of counseling that’s right for you, meaning for your budget and your needs and your schedule, rather than wait to be shipped off to whatever kind of “counseling de jour” the court is handing out. If done correctly (and that’s the only way I do it), this proactive approach pays off both in the short term, and in the long term, when the time comes to file a license appeal.
Avoiding jail is important. I do that everyday. Michigan law automatically categorizes anyone convicted of a 2nd offense DUI within 7 years, or a 3rd offense within 10 years as a “habitual offender.” Of course, a 3rd offense within a person’s lifetime is a felony, and even though the same driver’s license sanctions don’t apply to someone whose 3rd offense is more than 10 years after their 1st, there isn’t a Judge out there who won’t think anyone with a 3rd offense, whenever it occurs, doesn’t have a serious drinking problem.
The point here is that once a person starts racking up multiple DUI convictions, the court is going to mandate some rather intense treatment. Unfortunately, letting the court decide what kind of treatment is right for your drinking problem makes about as much sense as letting the court determine what kind of treatment a cancer patient should receive. Whatever else, the Judge is not a substance abuse counselor.
This is where being just a “DUI lawyer” isn’t nearly enough, either. Without more, you’re simply going to get stuck in the court’s idea of the best treatment for you. I am more than just a DUI lawyer; I am involved in formal, clinical addiction education at the university post-graduate level. That means I actually study this stuff in graduate school. I speak the language of alcohol and substance abuse counselors. I am intimately familiar with the development, diagnosis and treatment of alcohol problems. This makes me unique among DUI lawyers, and infinitely more helpful. I can help you determine what kind of counseling you should consider and explore, as well as what you might want to avoid.
The big problem here is that, in the academic world, it is universally understood that the judicial system is a solid 10 to 20 years behind the modern, cutting-edge treatment protocols of today. To put this more simply, it was certainly the case, 20 years ago, that if you signed up for an intensive outpatient program for an alcohol problem, you’d be expected to attend AA and obtain a sponsor. Today, it’s recognized that while AA is great, it’s only great for some people. It doesn’t work for everyone. In fact, it can cause some people to “run away” from treatment. AA has a religious component. It speaks of God and a “higher power.” This doesn’t present a problem to anyone who has a religious faith, but it can be a deal killer to someone that does not.
AA people try and work around this and will tell you that your “higher power” can be anything: A chair, a table or a tree. This kind of reasoning, however, just doesn’t hold up. You can’t fit a square peg into a round hole. Thus, just squeezing everyone into AA is not a good idea, but that’s exactly what most courts do.
On top of that, it is now beyond dispute that many, if not most people get over a drinking problem without having to go to AA. In fact, loads of people for whom AA would be nothing less than a nightmare have no problem getting sober and maintaining that sobriety through processes like cognitive behavioral therapy, or rational emotive behavioral therapy. The point is that in its drive to make you better, the court may wind up doing just the opposite. Think of the modern treatment approaches as the equivalent of streaming, high-def video (the kind that’s even making Blu-Ray a thing of the past), and the court’s approach as the functional equivalent of VHS videotape.
The real “kicker” to all of this is that, most of the time, the course of treatment ordered by the court is whatever is recommended by a probation officer. Unless your lawyer can speak from a position of authority on this subject, he or she might as well just jump up and down next to you while babbling “no, no, no!”
If you recognize that your drinking has become a problem, and you’re facing a DUI, I can help you in multiple ways. Finding the right treatment help will pay off in your DUI case, it will pay dividends down the road, when it’s time to file a license appeal, and it will otherwise turn your life around for the better. No one, on their deathbed, wishes they had struggled with a drinking problem longer than they did. If there’s one thing that defines real sobriety, it’s gratitude.
If you know it’s time to stop drinking, and you’re facing a DUI, perhaps it’s time we talk.