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The Red Flag: How a Night In Prison Gave Me Clarity on My Drinking Problem

by Allan I.
(Canada)

This is my story of how spending a night in prison provided me with new resolve to finally deal with my drinking problem ...


I wake up. I see what I saw before I fell asleep. I look out the window. I take a guess at the time and based on earlier knowledge, I became satisfied that it was around 5:00-5:30 in the morning. There was snow on the ground, a cold temperature outside my window.

Technically it's not MY window. The window belongs to a Remand Center, but more importantly, it belongs to the inmate sleeping in the bunk below mine. I did my best to stay quiet, and not disturb the only true peace this place possessed. Upon my arrival, the reality of this environment hit immediately. This was not a nice place. Period.

I was brought to a desk, escorted by two officers, hands restrained behind me. I will say at this point that I had been co-operative with police, and showed no aggression. I was brought in on an unpaid fine. I was intoxicated but that had no bearing on being brought to the facility. The cuffs were removed and I was immediately escorted to one of numerous holding rooms. Still very buzzed but the high was definitely killed.

All it seemed that was left from my consumption of beer was the sensation of the alcohol flying through my veins. The adrenaline produced by my current predicament only amplified everything, and for negative effect. With every moment that passed, I was learning first-hand how the intake process is conducted in one of these facilities.

It consisted of magnetic doors being opened by remote, and guards waving orders. One at a time, every individual was brought in and out of their holding rooms, for various purposes. Things such as personal information, photographs, strip searches, showers, etc. After around three hours in the holding room, it was my turn to be strip searched.

Now naked, holding a towel and the remainder of my clothing, I was escorted to a wicket where I handed in my clothes and got into a shower. I have to admit, it felt really good after being in custody and detained for a total of close to seven hours. It also slightly counter-acted the stale, disgusting residue of the alcohol. I stepped out, dried off, and was handed a set of boxer briefs with socks and the DOC clothing (Department Of Corrections).

A set of indoor shoes completed the ensemble, and I was escorted to a holding room across from a medical office. A brief examination and it was back to the main holding area.

It was at this point that I learned that I'd be released at 6:00 in the morning. It was 1:00 in the morning at this time. My mind drew its conclusion that this experience would be over in five hours. Those were some of the longest hours of my life, but they felt like minutes when they were compared to weeks.

The first positive emotion since I had been arrested had washed through me. I was not spending two days in here, as the arresting officers first indicated. Only overnight. The second positive sensation was using the toothbrush and toothpaste provided to me.

After a short stay in the main holding area, the intake process had come to an end. I was now to be escorted to one of the units within this maximum security facility. Escorted by one guard and accompanied by four other freshly processed inmates, we proceeded down corridors as sterile as a hospital and as quiet as a library. I stood with my back against the wall as I was instructed, while one of the inmates was taken through a set of doors that were large and ominously marked. This was obviously an entrance to one of the facility's cell block units. I had now learned where I was going to sleep tonight.

On we went, one by one. The processed inmates had now found their cell block units and ultimately, their cells. This was my first time in jail. I was learning at every turn and trying my best to not look nervous. I had now experienced the feeling of entering a cell block unit in a real prison.

I was greeted by a female guard behind a desk that faced two tiers of steel doors equipped with glass lookouts. She informed me that I would be alerted when it was time for me to be released. The guard then showed me to my cell. As I approached it, the calmness of the unit seemed to take over. It was an eerie type of silence, and the quiet carried a false sense of security with it.

This reminded me significantly of where I stood. I saw tables and chairs in a large open area and a staircase to the next tier. Very few fluorescent lights were on and this only enhanced the illusion of calm. Eventually, the sun would rise, and this beast would wake up. I hoped deep down in my mind that I would be out before it did.

The click of the cell door was all too familiar to me, and I pulled it open. As I walked inside, I knew immediately that I was not alone. The door was very heavy and it didn't close all the way on my first try. I failed a second time. The lights came on in the cell and the inmate glanced up at me. I pulled the door much harder this time and it closed completely with a loud slam. Click. That was it. Here I am.

I laid on the top bunk and absorbed my surroundings. It was immediately obvious that the man below me had been in this cell for a significant period of time. The hangover process had started and I knew I was far from sleep ....

I look out the window. I take a guess at the time and based on earlier knowledge, I became satisfied that it was around 5:00-5:30 in the morning. There was snow on the ground, a cold temperature outside my window ....

Before I left my cell, my host was wondering why I was leaving so soon. I told him my reason for the overnight visit. Unpaid fine. He told me his reason for being there, and upon hearing it, I was again reminded of the seriousness of my surroundings. He was being polite, as was I, but I knew this was a serious person.

I had gotten my silent hope of leaving while it was still lights out. Before I closed the door, I heard him say, "Stay out of places like this." It came across as genuine, and I'll never forget those words.

It was an hour later that I had left the main holding area and was getting my property back. I found myself in a visitor's area waiting for a van to take me to a transit station. The escort van was the last and seriously freezing cold event of this experience.

I sat in a small steel cage in the middle of the van, and below zero temperatures weren't helping anything. I recognized where I was and asked the guard to be let out. He pulled over, opened the side door to unlock the cage, and I set foot on civilian ground once again. I made sure to thank the guard for the ride, and he told me never to come back. "No sir.", I said. The older guy smiled and drove off, leaving me to my new-found freedom.

I have had a drinking problem for years, and this experience was the moment of clarity, out of all the awful things I have both seen and been a part of. I have not had a drink since this happened, and will not drink again. Alcohol has done serious damage to different parts of my life, and I could no longer ignore it. I had to stop. I've been supported by friends and family, and without them, I'd be a lot worse off. My life is turning around, but there's lots of work to be done. But I will do it. I know I will:)

Thank you for reading about my experience.

Comments for The Red Flag: How a Night In Prison Gave Me Clarity on My Drinking Problem

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Oct 06, 2012
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similar experience
by: Anonymous

..I had a bottle of Jack every couple days for 4 years...I drank, fought, drove drunk hundreds of times...ruined relationships, spent my money..and never got in trouble.My own mother begged me to stop but I was in control. I was blackout drunk in a bar and the cops came in and put me in jail.A driver on their cell phone called in my plates. I woke up in a piss filled cell full of animals.The cops took me in a room and ( I know this is messed up, but it worked)....cops take me into a room and asked me if I knew why I was in jail...I didnt....they told me I had killed a mother and child in an accident and I was going to spend the rest of my life in prison..I was put in a small cell by myself where I cried and cried for three hours. I thought of my Mother, all by herself waiting for her son to bring her groceries,never showing up.she is a helpless little old lady whos son went out and killed a mother and child because of whiskey...I was then told that all I did was get a dui, and I hadnt killed anybody,and I would be leaving shortly..I got to my mothers and held her in my arms and never wanted to let go.I quit cold turkey and it was EASY!! I havent touched a drop of alcohol in three and a half years and I never EVER will drink it again.I cant stand the smell of a drunk,or drunk people or anything. All my friends were astounded and could not believe my transformation.If I can do it, anybody can....thanks for reading and please look in the mirror and realize that just one beer can ruin your life.

Jul 15, 2011
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I enjoyed reading your story
by: Anonymous

I really enjoyed reading what you wrote. I wish you all the best. You are a good writer too.

Mar 16, 2011
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Great Share
by: Anonymous

Sometimes what leads us to choose a life of sobriety don't necessarily relate to our drinking problem in the first place ... but something happens that causes us to question our lives and from there positive change is effected. The fact that you've gotten there is the main thing. Keep going and may your life continue to progress upwards and onwards.

Mar 16, 2011
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Alcoholism
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