“My name is Dennis. I am a member of the Santa Monica Salvation Army Corps [church]. It’s a major, major, major part of my being.
I started playing at age 12 and I was in a Top 40 band at 13, 14 years old. I didn’t graduate High School and I was making three, four, or five hundred dollars in a weekend.
I was living in South Central Los Angeles: that’s where I got into the alcohol and drug thing.
I just started with a beer and smoked a little weed.
‘One’s too many and a thousand’s not enough.’ That was written for me.
And it escalated. When crack came out 1980 my brother said, ‘hey let’s get on this ship,’ and it was like that for like a long period of my life.
I was hustling at the Shell station. I was doing people’s gas and their windows. And when women came up, I would help them put air in their tires.
There was an abandoned car behind my mother-in-law’s place. I stayed behind my mother-in-law’s for a month. The car in front of that my father-in-law drove.
He would walk my daughter to the park or I would peek around to see my daughter going to school. They didn’t know I was back there.
I said, ‘I got to stop this!’
For a quick second, there was a small inkling of suicide in my head.
I thought, ‘I’ve got to bust a move because I’m too scared to kill me!’ I love life too much but the thought came by.
I was headed downhill and my turning point was that one month of sleeping in that car. I went to a minister at my old church which is Liberty Tabernacle Ministries in Gardena. They drove me to [The Salvation Army’s] Harbor Light.
December 7th, 2007 is when it all started.
I was happy to walk in there. That is God’s impeccable timing.
I got into the AA [Alcoholics Anonymous] process and I was going to church there at the Harbor Light with different nationalities, some gangbangers, or maybe some that’s just out of prison. Maybe I’ve slept next to murderers, or whatever the case may be.
All I know is that I was focused on getting my act together.
You have maybe, a couple hundred men staying at the Harbor Light and next door, maybe 50 or so women.
For their Christmas program, we ate good and got a beautiful service and gifts like a tote bag with stuff in it. I left that little Christmas service with more than I came in with.
Every day I stepped out: I’m walking through skid row and everybody isn’t doing the right things down there.
You’ve got your prostitutes, your alcoholics, your downtown gangsters and you’re in the midst of it.
If you can get sober in Skid Row, you can get sober anywhere.
I’m truly grateful to The Salvation Army because my life came together when I came here.
My drug usage and everything got so deep that I wasn’t playing my drum set. I started playing immediately when I got to The Salvation Army.
When I hadn’t not really gotten deep in my alcohol usage, I had a pretty black pearl drum set.
I was out running the streets and stuff so our guitar player had part of my drum set and he took it to The Salvation Army thrift shop. The rest of my drum set was with the bass player and he ended up taking it there too.
So when I started playing at [The Salvation Army] in Santa Monica, I went in for the rehearsal and they had my drum set!
So I said, ‘okay Dude — and I was talking to God — you’re the Man. I’ll bow down.’”
The Salvation Army Harbor Light Center in downtown Los Angeles closed more than a decade ago, but The Salvation Army still has drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs in most major metropolitan areas.