FEATURE: Regaining A License on the Road and on Life

Jose Montoya, former Smart Start Ignition Interlock client, in his office

Jose Montoya’s Story on How Smart Start’s Ignition Interlock Helped Pave the Road to Recovery

This is it, he thought while sitting in his empty jail cell. I am hitting rock-bottom.

It was 2011. Jose Montoya had been convicted of a third DWI and was currently spending time in the El Paso County Jail. His alcohol addiction had taken the reins of his life for more than 25 years.

Jose’s first DWI was in 1995. Back then, Jose felt as if the punishments for a DWI were like a slap on the wrist: pay your fees, do some jail time, do this, do that, then go on with your life. Jose was not introduced to treatment in any way, and was not court-ordered to install an Ignition Interlock.

Looking back over 20 years ago, Jose says he wishes a solution had been presented to him back then when he was first convicted.

Jose Montoya is from a small town in the state of Chihuahua, Mexico. Growing up with the mindset that excessive drinking was a normal way of life made him believe that alcohol could help him cope with any problems.

He was finally court-ordered to install a Smart Start Interlock after his third DWI conviction in 2011. He was angry, frustrated. On top of the jail time, the fees and the overall embarrassment, he had to use this device against his will. It was an invasion of privacy. It was just about someone taking money out of his pockets.

Later, Jose realized his thoughts were like a loop of the same songs on the radio over and over again. Excuses. Excuses for the type of behavior that could ruin peoples’ lives and their families.

It was time to make a change. And when he chose, as an option in his court order, to seek treatment in 2012 with the El Paso County DWI Court Intervention and Treatment program, it was the first big step to the beginning of his recovery journey. In fact, the program would be one of the most significant parts of Jose taking back complete control of his life.

Today, Jose still lives in El Paso, and he is making a big difference in his community. Jose is the founder and owner of Clean Guys Auto Shine, a car washing company that is eco-friendly and offers second chances to people struggling with addiction. He offers his services as a recovery coach to his employees free of charge as a part of the company’s mission. In addition, Jose volunteers with the Mountain Star Rehabilitation Foundation. They connect participants and families of the DWI program to services in the community that support lifelong recovery.

Jose is also a peer-recovery support specialist at Aliviane, Inc., the same organization where he was admitted to as a part of the DWI program. Aliviane is slang for ‘feeling better’ in Spanish.

Since 1995, El Paso, as well as most of the U.S., have cracked down on drunk driving with stronger laws such as all-offender, or mandatory, Ignition Interlock regulations. El Paso also enacted a ‘No Refusal Program’ a few years ago that allows police to draw the blood of someone refusing a breathalyzer test who is suspected of drunk driving.

As a peer recovery specialist, Jose knows from both sides how to effectively be a part of someone’s treatment process. At times, he says, it may seem like a punishment to a lot of clients. But in all reality, it is in their best interest.

According to Jose, one of the biggest challenges he’s seen in clients is changing their perspective on their situation. When Jose was court-ordered to be at Aliviane, he thought that this is how he was going to be punished. It takes people a while to humble themselves by speaking with other clients and understanding that the organization is trying to help them. The sense of unity, the fact that they all need help, strikes them that they are all here for a reason.

“Interlocks are a tool for recovery.”

When ordered to use an Interlock, Jose says clients will feel the same way – they are being punished. “What people don’t understand at first is that the Interlock is a tool for recovery. The DWI program is a mix of supervision, treatment and tools. That is how I saw Interlocks later … it is a tool I need to have under my belt to recover.”

During his program, driving with the Interlock struck another chord. Every time he was blowing into the device, it was a reminder to him that being able to drive was a privilege. Jose had been behind the wheel since he was 12-years-old – driving did not mean that much to him until an Interlock had to be installed in his vehicle.

“Interlocks are a way to help individuals get better,” Jose said. “In the beginning stages of someone’s recovery, they need a lot of structure. They need a lot of people, support and tools. I see the Interlock as being an amazing tool to understand you are starting your recovery. You are making a change for yourself.”

We share Jose’s philosophy in helping people through their addiction with the proper tools and support.

Smart Start is with you on the road to recovery. From start to finish, our 24/7 customer service team will answer any questions or concerns about your Interlock program.

Regain your license and your life back – today. Whether court-ordered or voluntary, call 800.831.3299 or fill out our online form to schedule an Interlock installation appointment.


Jose was court-ordered to use a Smart Start Ignition Interlock device from 2012-2014 in El Paso, TX.