Why I quit drinking

If you know me, you’ll know that I don’t drink. I haven’t had a drink in over 4 years now. I went to Santan Brewery last Friday and had a few Diet Cokes with friends and it got me remembering how bad getting a DUI was.

It was just over 6 years ago now; April 2005. I got busted stopped at a red light. A few minutes earlier, someone was in front of me driving really slow on the US60. I was super pissed off, drove aggressively to cut in front of them and shot them the middle finger. They called the cops on me and that’s how it started.

The whole ordeal set me back somewhere between $15,000 and $20,000. Lawyer, court and jail fees… cab fare when I didn’t have a license. Counseling fees for around a hundred hours. I also had to have a blow device in my car at a cost of around $300 to install with a monthly fee of $100 for a year.

Those experiences took every ounce of pleasure when it come to having a drink. The taste, the social scene, having a cool one when you relax. A lot of my friends like to have a few drinks and kick back, but I’ll stick with my Diet Coke, man.

After remembering the experience I dug this up. It’s a journal entry I wrote the morning I was released, Tuesday July 12th, 2005. I’ve posted it before (years ago), but if you haven’t already read it, take a minute and check it out. This is it, in its entirety and completely unedited…

My original journal entry from July 2005

Today I finished doing my time in the Maricopa county jail for my DUI. I can’t explain how awesome it is to be out of there. I’m really looking forward to getting a full night’s sleep in my own bed again.

I’ll try to explain the entire process as accurately as possible (this is all from memory so some of the layouts might be slightly off).

Day 1 (07/02/2005)

If you live in the US, you’ve probably heard about the man that runs this jail, Sheriff Joe Arpaio aka “The toughest sheriff in America”. He is always speaking publicly about making prisoner’s time as bad as possible and about the money he saves by basically denying prisoners any luxuries. He makes the prisoners wear pink underwear and socks and the old-school black and white striped uniforms and he’s made Maricopa County’s “Tent City” famous.

When you get sentenced, you have a date to report to jail. It’s called a self-surrender. You go to the east corner of the Lower Buckeye Jail (LBJ). I got here around 7:30am and waited with a group of people. After about an hour, a detention officer came out and gathered us up and led us to the main building. After we walked through the gate, he radioed someone to close the gate. When the gate slammed closed, I knew this was going to suck. We went into the booking office and filled out paperwork (name, address, etc). Below is a drawing of the facility

A rough sketch of the Lower Buckeye Jail and the holding tank I was in
A rough sketch of the Lower Buckeye Jail and the holding tank I was in

After filling out and turning in the paperwork, you walk through a metal detector. I beeped along with some other people, and we were separated from the rest of the group. Another person took all of us and led us down the hall (forgetting to even bother searching the people that set off the metal detector) and down the first hall filled with holding cells (“tanks”). We were put into a holding cell with about 15 people already in it and the door was locked shut behind us.

The drawing above shows what a typical holding tank looks like. I noticed two types (when I was being booked, the holding tank was about 9 feet by 10 feet. When I was being released, that holding tank was slightly larger at about 9 feet by 12 feet). Being in the holding tank is hands down the worst part about the entire process. When I got in there, I talked with people and asked how long they’ve been here. Most of the people there had been there since around 5pm or 6pm the day before (and now it was about 8:30am). This is where it set in how bad this sucked. After about an hour of sitting on the floor, I laid out and tried to get some sleep.

The time goes by extremely slow. Finally I was called out and I was pretty excited. An officer led me back over to the booking area by the computer and snapped my photo. Then I got thrown back into the holding tank.

A few hours go by and a rookie officer brings in the lunch for everyone. He throws these plastic bags and milk out to everyone and its chow time. If you’ve heard about tent city and Joe Arpaio, then you know how he makes sure the food is absolutely disgusting. He serves the prisoners rotten and expired food which costs less than the meals he provides for the animals over at the animal shelter (I think the cost of an animal meal per day is about $1.20 while the prisoner meal costs about 44 cents). You get 2 pieces of bread that are as hard as a rock, 2 slices of American cheese, 3 pieces of rotten bologna (which have these pieces of cheese in them), and a rotten tomato. I was surprised that the milk didn’t expire until tomorrow. It’s pretty nasty food, but it beats being hungry. Most of the people didn’t eat their food.

Not much else happened. I guess the highlight was something in the cell next to us. There was a ton of noise next door, which I later learned the story behind. Apparently a guy next door couldn’t take being in the holding cell for a long time and went completely insane. He grabbed the toilet paper, dipped it in the toilet, and strained the TP over his head, catching the water in his mouth. He started screaming and undressing and banging his head over and over again into the door and the window on the door. Officers pulled him out and tazered him. Some officers came into our cell and told us to turn around “or else”. We turned around and you could tell they were beating the crap out of this guy. He was screaming pretty loud. They put him into this weird kind of “crazy people” chair and probably put him in solitary confinement.

At 11:30pm, people from different cells were being called out. We were lead into the hall and lined up. The officers shackled our legs up and handcuffed everyone to another person and led us out to the trucks. We crammed in there and the officers started driving. These guys drive insane and I think they do it on purpose. They were taking corners going about 40 or 50, probably just so everyone in back gets thrown around. We finally got to our destination, Estrella Jail, at around midnight. We were let into the main room there, un-cuffed, and searched. The officers threw us all into 2 holding tanks while they were processing us (both of which didn’t have a bathroom). I think a Mexican guy in the other tank crapped his pants.

After sitting in there for a long time, we were let out and went out to the main area. The officer let us use a bathroom and then we got shackled up. I think it was around 1:45am at this point. We got handcuffed on the legs and handcuffed to another person. We started the walk over to tent city.

Walking from the holding tank to the jail while shackled at the hands and feet
Walking from the holding tank to the jail while shackled at the hands and feet

Above is an overview of the area. You can see the drive we made from LBJ over to Estrella and I highlighted the walk. I was wearing sandals and during the walk the cuffs really dug into my legs. I could feel the cuffs slicing deeper and deeper the closer we got. We were led over to the “Con-Tents” tent city (the other yard is the “In-Tents”, also called “Stripes” by inmates. The people over at stripes have to wear the old-school striped uniforms).

We were let in and searched. A lot of people obviously weren’t searched before or weren’t searched very good. People had cell phones on them, etc and some people had stuff that could obviously be used as a weapon, like a screw driver. Finally, the cuffs were taken off and I got a chance to check out my legs. They were cut pretty bad and were bleeding all over the place. When I did get a chance to return home, I took a photo (this photo is 2 days after the cuffs cut the crap out of me)

Scabbed over cuts from the leg shackles cutting into my heel
Scabbed over cuts from the leg shackles cutting into my heel

It took 18 hours, but we finally made it here to tent city (2:00am). We were told the rules, etc and handed our blankets and assigned a tent and a bunk. I went and made my bed and went up on the hill. There’s a Commissary there that has vending machines. They were being serviced I guess so I waited around with 3 other people and talked until about 4am when they were opened up again. I grabbed an RC Cola and felt a lot better. We all finally got some sleep after that. I drew a map of the con-tents tent city yard.

A rough sketch of the "con-tents" where I stayed
A rough sketch of the “con-tents” where I stayed

The tents are all numbered and have numbered bunks. There are metal frame bunk beds with about an inch of foam padding for a mattress. When you walk in, the left side of the tent has 4 bunks in a row and the right has 7 bunks.

Days 2 through 10; Tent Living

I woke up the next day at about 6am. It was pretty hard to get to sleep. It started to get really hot outside, and by noon it was almost unbearable. It gets really damn hot outside, especially inside the tents. Inside the tents, the temperature gets up to 140 degrees. I picked up some good tips that make it not as bad though
-Drink lots of water (obviously)
-Take a shower with your clothes on and get your head soaking wet, this helps a lot
-You get a pink towel when you get your bunk blankets. Grab that and get it soaking wet. Put it around your neck, making sure to cover up the back of your neck. This is probably the most important thing to do, otherwise you’ll probably have a heat stroke (someone did when I was there last Saturday)

The day isn’t that bad if you have work release. There’s a black box in front of the office where you turn in your ID to get released for work. You have to turn in your ID between an hour and a half or an hour before your release time in order to get out. Also, you have to shave everyday and be clean-shaven to get out for work. Once you get work release, the time flies by. Tent City basically is just a hotel to sleep in at night and nothing more really.

I met a lot of great people at tent city. Mostly everyone there was there for a DUI and they’re going through the same things. There’s also some other interesting things. There’s a guy that sells Powerball tickets every Wednesday and Sunday. He sells number slots for the actual Powerball (not the other 5 numbers) for 2 dollars. The winner gets like 100 bucks or something like that (last Sunday’s number was 4).

Besides gambling, you can also find smokes and drugs in tent city. All of these things will get you “rolled up” if you get caught. Rolled up means you pack up your stuff and the guards will put you in stripes (the “in-tents”). You’ll be wearing pink underwear, etc.

Cigarettes go for a dollar a piece. I saw a few people walking around smoking pot just in-between tents. Some guy I talked to saw a guy with a handful of hundred dollar bills and a bag of meth. It’s insane. The stuff all gets in by people throwing it over the fence. The officers don’t really seem to care that much. If they walked around constantly and watched everyone, it would be a much different place.

I spent a lot of time talking with everyone there. I met a lot of great people and had some fun playing Gin Rummy and trying to figure out how to play Dominos (an inmate made dominos out of soap bars). The worst was the last day.

The final hours

When I got back on the 11th (Monday), a guard pulled me aside and let me know I was going to be “kicked out” soon. My name was called about 30 minutes later and I brought all my stuff to the gate. The officer got ready to shackle us up and was nice enough to not shackle our feet (I showed her the scars on the back of my legs). We got thrown in a holding cell with about 15 other people back at Estrella. We got there at 9pm and left at 11pm. When we left, we got shackled up and handcuffed to each other and set off for LBJ. We got to LBJ and got thrown into a holding cell there. At the time, there were only about 12 of us in there, but by about 4am, there was over 40 of us in this small little cell.

Just sitting there is the worst part. It’s impossible to go to sleep and you run out of things to talk about. This is where crazy and insane people save the day. There was a guy there that got busted for shoplifting and was getting released and he stood up on the bench and started to tell everyone about how he likes crack cocaine and how to make it.

The rest really isn’t even worth writing about, but I finally got released around 12 noon on Tuesday. I can’t believe it takes 15 hours to get processed out.

Because of the way they treat people, I think a lot of the inmates are prone to going back out and committing the same crime again. Lots of people in the holding cells I overheard talking were talking about how they’re going to go break the law as soon as they get released. A group of about 10 people already picked the local Circle K (see my drawing above) as a target that they’re going to shoplift from as soon as they get out. One guy was going to get a ride to the mall and go back to the store he was arrested at and shoplift new clothes and then move to Las Vegas. Pretty much everyone was talking about getting drunk and a lot of people were talking about smoking crack or shooting up. I don’t think shoving people in a room really helps them, it only makes them want to commit the crime or a worse crime even more. I’m a really relaxed guy and after being in a small room with 45+ guys and having to use the bathroom in front of everyone and not being able to sleep, I was ready to fight anyone that said the wrong thing.

That all went away when they finally called my name out and I got to do the final walk out to the release area. It’s finally over with


    1. I was only in there for 10 days, but it was enough for me. If you think going to jail or prison is cool, then by all means be my guest and enjoy having your street cred. I was just documenting what happened for my friends and family to read because I quit drinking shortly after this took place (and people always ask me why).

  1. Thank you for the information. Im “self surendering” tomorow at 5:00am for a streight 48 hours and the work release starting Monday. Im terified. Thank you for once again.

  2. My husband self surrendered today and gets out on work release on Monday. I was told I won’t be picking him up in the same place I dropped him off. Where were u released at every morning

    1. Hi there! well, it’s been a while, 2005… but they let us out in the morning over by the towers jail. Looking at that map I drew, it was on Gibson lane between 27th ave and 35th ave. Hope this helps!

  3. Hello Brian, thank you for all the helpful information. I got a super extreme DUI on Feb 24, 2013 last year in Scottsdale and have since then moved back to Illinois which is my home state. After more than a year my case is now going to trial by Jury next month. I had someone record my plate number and notify the cops and they came after I got out of my car and was walking towards my house. I am terrified and embarrassed about this whole thing as this is my first time ever DUI and I have never been to Jail. My lawyer is doing the best he can but I will very likely get convicted and have to spend some time in tent city. Since I have my teaching license, I am afraid of the repercussions attached to this. Overall, I have been just miserable and scared, do you have any tips on making this as bearable as possible?? I have not touched a drink since, I just wish I did not choose to drink and drive that day! Thank you 🙂

    1. Hey there Nina, thanks for writing 🙂 Sorry to hear about your case. I definitely think Arizona is harsh on first offenders and they are probably going to throw the book at you since you are opting to go to trial. Like I wrote, the experience was bad enough that I quit drinking completely. When I see people drinking at a bar and knowing they’re driving themselves home, I know it’s only a matter of time before they eventually get nailed. You’d be surprised how many people you might already know that already have DUIs; most everybody is ashamed and keeps it a secret.

      What happened to me has been said and done for almost 9 years now… I can honestly say I’m not embarrassed about the experience and I would encourage you not to be embarrassed. On the contrary, I try to share the experience with people to add some perspective. While I was going through the conviction and sentencing, many of my close friends started (and still are) taking cabs everywhere, so it definitely has the potential to positively affect more than just you.

      First off, I’d recommend removing your comment if your lawyer wouldn’t be comfortable with you posting this online. Second, everybody makes mistakes. As you go through your next steps, keep your head up. During my experience, I got treated horribly and was judged by many people, especially by people who drink and drive but hadn’t been caught yet (some of those people later got DUIs, so they didn’t get the chance to be “holier than thou” for too long). I had to go to several MADD panels, Alcoholics Anonymous, the jail time obviously, and then around 75 hours of “abuse counseling”. I also had a blow device in my car for a full year which completely ruined my dating life (it’s impossible to not have someone judge you when you pick them up and have to blow into the device). After maybe 20 first dates, I gave up dating completely for almost 3 years. Despite all of this, you need to have self confidence. These people have no idea who you actually are and don’t let their opinion bring you down. Be humble about the experience and be aware you can prevent it from happening again by never drinking. For me, the loss of control over the situation led to me having anxiety attacks, which I didn’t figure out how to control until years later when I found out I have OCD.

      If you’re worried about your field, talk to your boss. Let him/her know that you’re extremely distressed about this, you’ve stopped drinking, and that you want to make sure one mistake doesn’t jeopardize your employment. You didn’t get into an accident; it’s not a violent crime and it’s not a sex crime. Sure, many people out there will judge you and be upset that you’re teaching with a blemish on the record, but it honestly has no reflection of your teaching abilities in the classroom. I’ve never taught, but this is a classic human resources issue. If you wouldn’t feel comfortable talking with your boss, you need to approach the HR department of the facility you work for.

      Best of luck; feel free to post again on here or contact me directly

  4. Thank you so much! It definitely helps to hear it from someone who had some experience with that! In Illinois, they offer a diversion program and are not harsh on the DUI stuff unless you cause an accident or injury. I am just glad I am out of Arizona and back home though I can guarantee I will not ever touch liquor and drive! I appreciate your time and candidness 🙂

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