Muscular Development: The Worst Day of My Life, by PJ Braun



The Following Article was originally published in Muscular Development Magazine in October 2022. It is the first in a series of articles written while PJ Braun was in prison. You can find future articles in this series here.

County jail SUCKS, so stay out of trouble, kids!

PJ Braun

First and foremost, to say that I am excited to be writing for MD again is a huge understatement. Five months ago I wrote an article before my sentencing date, saying goodbye. Getting this opportunity again says so much about Steve Blechman and his wonderful staff so a huge ‘Thank you!’ From the beginning, my intent has been to inspire, motivate and educate: providing guidelines for longevity, inside and outside the sport. Let me tell you the trials and tribulations I went through over the last five months, ending with me training harder than I have in years.

February 17 was the worst day of my life. I had the misfortune of having the only judge in Broward County who does not allow self-surrender for camp incarceration. What this means is that I had 30 seconds to turn and see the broken hearts of my fiancée Marissa, my parents, and all my friends, staff and family as they cuffed me and took me out. Thankfully, I was not unprepared, so I had my prescription meds and written consent from all my doctors for the prosecution, as asked. 

I have always been open with everything that goes in my body so here we go: 30 milligrams of Paxil a day, 2 milligrams of lorazepam twice a day, 20 milligrams of doxepin before bed, 200 milligrams of Test-Depot weekly, and 1 milligram of Arimidex every third day. This is a key part of my story because as soon as I got to intake at my first stop, which was county jail, I was told I could not be on any of the meds and sent into detox for the first week. I have been a big advocate of kratom for many years and used quite a bit daily, so if you are interested in detoxing from kratom, benzos and sleep medicine at the same time, I am your man. The detox was done in quarantine, wearing nothing but a smock. Benzo detox is done with Valium every few hours to ease the withdrawals. Compared to alcohol detox, this was a breeze though. I had sweats, chills, and the runs for a few days, but I wasn’t eating the food anyway. County jail SUCKS, so stay out of trouble, kids! After two weeks in two different county jails where I was in quarantine the entire time, I was shackled up and put on a bus to FDC Miami. 

FDC Miami was intense. I was in quarantine for 35 straight days and only allowed out for one hour to shower and make a seven-minute phone call. By the time I was out I had gone from a lean 230 to a flat and skinny 210 pounds. Testosterone plummeting, estrogen surging, this was a new extreme. In the outside world I had HRT, the best supplements in the world from Blackstone Labs, IV therapy every week with glutathione, ozone therapy every day, massage therapy once a week, access to any food I wanted; The list goes on and on. I was living the perfect meathead life. I even had my own gym! While incarcerated at FDC Miami, there were no weights and I lived on gas station food in a cell for 23 hours a day. Total protein daily was about 40-50 grams before I got released into the general prison population. 

General population in a FDC (Federal Detention Center) is more intense than you can imagine, and I will leave it at that. When I get out, the book I write will be filled with very colorful personalities, but I want to stick to bodybuilding for now. My cellmate was a Cuban man named Francisco who was a devout Christian and fell in love with weight training in prison. Talk about luck, or perhaps a blessing for both of us. Francisco created all sorts of makeshift dumbbells out of garbage bags filled with water, pillowcases and laundry bags all sewn together. Once I get out, I promise to make a YouTube video with him because he was a real-life MacGyver! The first couple of days I watched him work out with his partner and could not resist correcting form and showing them some new exercises. I had no desire to train, and my emotions were so out of whack that I was going back and forth from anxiety to wanting to cry for no reason. I swear they kept playing those damn commercials to save the tigers and elephants that would make me cry even if I wasn’t a ball of estrogen!

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Now that I had access to the commissary, I had decided I was going to eat for a week to get my strength up and then jump back in, but not 48 hours later, I couldn’t take it anymore. What happened next was 20 days of the hardest and most intense workouts I have had in years! Even more special, Francisco and his incredible attitude got me speaking to God again. I was raised Catholic but lost faith over the years. The more time I spent with Francisco, the more I read the Bible, books about faith, and finally an incredible book called ‘The Case for Christ’ written by an investigative journalist who was also an atheist-turned-pastor. I highly recommend that book. The last thing I am going to do is make this a cliché, “I went to prison and found God” piece, but I will say I found my way back, and when I left FDC Miami, Francisco told me I was the most Christian man he has ever met: not because of my words but because of my actions. He said he felt blessed for his time learning from me. I will never forget those words or that man who, in many ways, was like a guardian angel to me. 

This sounds like ‘happy ending’ time, right? NOPE! On the day I was ready to be shipped to my camp, I tested positive for COVID-19 and had to go to the SHU for 14 days. SHU stands for Solitary Housing Unit; 14 days alone in a cell, only being allowed out on Monday, Wednesday and Friday for 15-minutes to shower. At this point I had some great books, so I just read and slept my way through it. Some guys lose their minds in solitary.

Fast forward two weeks and I was finally ready for camp, or so I thought (lol). Shackled and on a bus once again, I went on an all-day ride that ended in Tallahassee. We got there at 5:00 p.m, exhausted, but at midnight *BOOM*, back on the road for Atlanta: the oldest prison in the USA. I spent another 14 days in COVID quarantine, only allowed out for an hour on Sunday, Tuesday, and Friday before being bussed to Maxwell Air force Base in Alabama. I never thought I would say this, but after going through three months of quarantine thanks to COVID restrictions, I was happy I did because it made the arrival and transition positively rewarding. 

Camp life is way different. Freedom to be outside and play sports like basketball, tennis and volleyball. All sorts of jobs and classes available, plus no locked cells. We have a very kind and helpful staff and officers. You don’t have to worry about your “papers” or “car” in a camp. To put it simply, your “car” is your ethnic group. That’s how it is everywhere else, no matter who you are, it’s just prison politics, but none of that existed at the camp. No violent offenders and I met some really cool guys. Shout-out to Franco and Mike who helped me so much when I first got there and was clueless and, of course, Big Buford, who will be a free man by the time this goes to print.

I went through hell, but I had so much support from my fiancée Marissa. She has been on point for me in every way and has been holding it down like a boss! It’s been hard, but this has made us even stronger. My partner Jared Wheat and my dad have Blackstone kicking ass and, because they have me confident in the future, I have been training harder than ever and eating like a MACHINE. I have put back on more than 20 pounds, but I will break all that down in my next column. 

Doing this natural at 41 years old with nothing more than a multivitamin is rough after what I have grown accustomed to, but I train hard every day and I intend to blow everyone’s mind. Nevertheless, I am doing this for myself. Just like my competition days, I do it because I love it.

Thank you all so much for the love and support and once again thank you MD!

Instagram @pjbraunfitness

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