Not even jail was as hard as rehab at the Salvation Army Adult Rehabilitation Center in Pasadena, according to Dominique Perry.
To be sure, during his lock-up he faced simmering racial tension and even violence. But he had a lot of free time and made hairbrushes out of soap bars and toothbrushes that he could sell to buy Cokes and chips.
In the rehab, he thought they overloaded him with rules and endless meetings. They raided his room based on “stupid suspicions.” Once, Dominique got raided for an electric toothbrush with attachments that someone thought could be used as a weapon.
“In jail it’s all about survival of the fittest, the bigger guy getting on the little guy. But all you have to do is listen to the guard. You can sleep all day,” Dominique said. “But in rehab you have to wake up early. Two cursings is a kick out. You have to go to three meetings a day. It gets you out of your comfort zone.”
Despite seething under the regimen, Dominique, now 26, graduated after eight months at the rehab center in July 2017, He had kicked meth, is serving the Lord and got a job as a dispatcher for a security company.
He’s come a long way since his early days in Pacoima, a poor, mostly African American neighborhood of Los Angeles. His father left the household when he was a tyke. In high school, he started smoking weed, skipping class and trying to be cool.
“I always said we never needed dad. My mom always gave us everything. She was full of love,” Dominique said. “But maybe I needed him.”
He was good at football and was offered several scholarships for community colleges. But with his mind clouded by drugs, he never accepted one.
“I was picking and cocky. I was ignorant. I wasn’t really thinking,” he said. “I didn’t go to any of them. I just stayed home and started smoking more weed. I started deviating and falling into gangs.”
In Catholic middle school, he was taunted by the Boys from the Projects, a Latino gang. Dominique is half Mexican and half African American, but he looks more African American. So the Boys from the Projects started throwing rocks at him during PE.
The nuns were afraid themselves, he said, so he took matters into his own hands. He was already getting big, bigger than his taunters, so he beat them and chased them off.
“I felt powerful,” he said. “That day I went to the barber shop and told my story. Some bloods were there. There was a guy there with new shoes, and he said, ‘You wanna go get them?’ That was the worst mistake of my life. I wanted to feel protected and I wanted to claim something that people would recognize that I could strike fear.”
He was jumped the next day by six gang members. Seeing the bruises afterward, his mom cried and took him to the ER. He lied and said he fell down.
“Joining the gang opened the door of sin. I was constantly trying to prove myself. It led to worse and worse things – shootings and drugs and violence. I started losing control of my own personal life. I lost track of going to school. I lost track of my family. I thought what I was doing was more important.”
He got arrested for showing off some brass knuckles in high school. Later he was nabbed for wearing red gang gear and throwing signs. When the cops grabbed him, he also had Ecstasy pills and marijuana, when it was illegal in California.
His third arrest was for meth.
“I used to look down on crackheads,” Dominique said. “But some females introduced me to it. I started to think it was cool because I wanted to be a player. I was young and reckless. I wanted to stay up all night and party, and meth was a booster. They persuaded me to smoke it, and I accepted. There was a rush in my body, and then I started smoking it more and more.” Read the rest of freedom from meth.