- posted: Apr. 09, 2020
In a typical year, we make a couple of trips a month to the Secretary of State to help folks regain their driver’s licenses. In April May and June of most years, that frequency doubles.
The reason for that is simple. People have the fee via their federal tax refunds.
Today, that citizen is in a double bind due to the virus. First, many are no longer employed and may or may not be eligible for unemployment. Second, the considerable group that has had success with twelve-step programs may not be able to attend meetings or get signatures from twelve-step colleagues.
The first problem works against that petitioner in two ways. First, the savings that were going to fund the license restoration process may have to be spent on bare necessities. Worse, the anxiety of those savings running out while the family unit is sheltering in place tests sobriety.
Generally speaking, the most challenging times to maintain sobriety are when things are going very badly and when things are suddenly and, perhaps unexpectedly, going very well. Sheltering in place is the former.
The other tough part is a possible separation from a “12 Step” group that understands the disease and has a grasp of how the steps are to be applied. This separation can be a recipe for disaster if we let it become one.
If you are in this situation, there are ways to make it work for you. No matter your stage of recovery, you can use this time to enter into a more mature recovery phase and to demonstrate that tough times will not cause you to relapse.
Since you may have a little more time on your hands than normal, first go back to AA step four. I have never known anyone who has seriously revisited step four who did not discover she had left out some elements in her "searching inventory." Step four is purposefully uncomfortable. The more uncomfortable it becomes, the more complete your later transition can be.
Open up a line to your sponsor. During the shutdown, establish a frequency with which you will talk, even if there are no concerns. Knowing that lifeline is out there will help you get through this time.
Most alcoholics we take for licensing have been in the program at least a year. If this is you, then you have been through step eight. Go back to step eight. Just as in step four, you will find that you have left out some people you wronged. Where possible, in keeping with the program, reach out to them. Try to make it right. It is not uncommon for my clients to receive reference letters from some of their step eight contacts. That is how much earnest step eight work can help.
Many AA participants do not have a sponsor. If that is you, identify somebody that you can use for a personal shepherd for the duration. You do not have to divulge any AA secrets. You can say you're going through a difficult personal time, and you would like to have someone outside of your home to talk to. You will find the right person. Programmatically speaking, this is not ideal. But it is better than trying to do it all yourself.
There are also things you can do that will make your legal case stronger when the hearings section opens back up. Make a list of all potential folks who can write you a character or recommendation letter. Clergy, bankers, educators, elected officials, educators, and medical professionals are all helpful. The more often someone sees you, the more persuasive the character letter becomes.
You are going to have to prepare a drinking history. It is tedious work, and you will make mistakes in your early drafts. Get started on it. When it comes time for you to go to an evaluator to get your treatment package done, that evaluator will help you fix the errors and inconsistencies in it. Drinking histories, done imperfectly, can sink a petition for driving relief about as quickly as a bad performance at the hearing itself. You cannot start your history too soon.
If you have selected the lawyer you want to help you, his or her office may be willing to suggest the best evaluator/provider for your specific case. It does not hurt to call and ask. That would allow you to call that provider and determine your treatment needs to be eligible for driving relief.
So, in addition to remaining sober, there is a list of things you can do to better yourself and better your eventual request to get back on the road. I will close with two things I do not want you to do:
1. Unless you have been in the program for a decade or more, this is no time for step 12 work. Each step is there for a reason. I see many failures arise because someone tries to run before he can walk. Remember the fable of Icarus. When he flew too high (too close to the sun), his wax wings melted and he plunged to his death. That is the story of premature step 12 work. We are in crisis here. Maintain your sobriety at all costs.
2. Finally, and most importantly, DO NOT DRIVE. When you have no base driving privileges, contrary to what you hear at both bars and AA meetings, there is no "emergency exception." A driving offense will at least double your suspension and add substantial time to your ability to overcome your revocation.
Be well. Be careful. Be sober. And become prepared to reclaim your driving privileges.