PINAL COUNTY, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) - A San Tan Valley man is thankful for getting a DUI.
The story sounds strange, but he says that DUI likely saved his life.
He’s sharing his story, hoping to keep others safe on the roads this holiday season.
"I’m an alcoholic, been drinking probably since I was 16 years old,” said Jason Ellis.
Every time he gets into his car Ellis has to use an ignition interlock.
He says the night he earned it was one of the best things that ever happened to him.
"It was a normal day for me. Drank about a pint of 100 proof vodka on the way to work,” he said. “Went to go play poker in a tournament with some friends, drank a pint on the way there, stopped, got another pint, drank that half pint.”
On his way home, he was pulled over by Pinal County Sheriff’s Deputy Jeffrey McElwain.
“A little erratic and out of control,” described McElwain.
“I was a 0.38 when I got pulled over,” Ellis admitted.
Of course, at first, Ellis wasn't too thrilled about the DUI.
“I said things to that man that I cannot ever take back and I am definitely ashamed of,” said Ellis.
He paid his fine, went to rehab, and hasn't touched alcohol since.
Then six months ago, Ellis ran into McElwain again at a Circle K gas station.
“I see him walking over, I’m like, 'Awww man, this is going to be a confrontation. He's going to be pissed off at me,’" said McElwain.
“I definitely thought I was going to get tazed,” said Ellis.
That didn't happen. It ended in a handshake.
“I owed him an apology, I definitely did,” said Ellis. “I definitely owe the man my life."
"Stuff like that makes you remember why you come here and do this every day,” said McElwain.
So despite looking for answers at the bottom of a bottle, Ellis eventually found it in the back of a squad car.
“Don’t be selfish. Don't. You're going to take a chance at killing somebody when you are not at your best. Don't. The technology's there. Call an Uber, call a friend,” said Ellis.
Ellis had been stopped for DUI on two separate occasions about 20 years before being pulled over by McElwain.