More than 15 years ago, he approached the "headman" of a secret society and asked to become a member. Since then, Mr Azmi Abdul Rahman, 43, has been in and out of prison nine times.
Each time, he vowed to stay clear of gang-related activities but failed because of his drug addiction.
"Apart from family warmth and love, my gang could provide me with everything that my family was unable to, including drugs," he added.
"Addiction is a disease. I am still recovering even after staying clean for five years."
Mr Azmi was one of two former gang members who spoke to participants at Camp ACE (All Can Escape) VIII, a police initiative to steer "at-risk" youths away from gang-related activities.
When Mr Azmi finally decided to tell the gang that he wanted to turn over a new leaf and leave it, his girlfriend was worried for his safety.
He told reporters at the camp yesterday: "I told my girlfriend, if I am not out (of the meeting with the gang members) within 20 minutes, call an ambulance and inform the authorities."
Fortunately, the gang allowed him to leave, albeit reluctantly and with a warning not to frequent nightclubs or join other gangs.
"They wanted me to change my life for good," said Mr Azmi, who is now a ship chandler.
"The turning point in my life was actually myself. I wanted to have a good life and live my life happily. I told myself, if I had the courage to join a gang, I must have the courage to face the consequences."
Now happily married with four kids, Mr Azmi said of Camp ACE: "This programme is useful as the number of youths involved in gang-related activities is high. In fact, the camp should be more than just an annual event."
He told the participants: "I thought my fellow gang members were my friends, but none of them turned up to visit me in prison."
The camp's other guest speaker, Mr Kim Whye Kee, 37, an artist and grassroots member, recalled his regret when he had to visit his dying father in hospital in handcuffs and escorted by police officers.
"It hit me really hard. What was the point of joining a gang? I neglected my family.
"I dreamt of going home for a simple dinner with my family but instead, a week later, I attended his funeral in handcuffs. I brought shame upon my family," he said.
Mr Kim has initiated a community arts programme to expose at-risk youth to an arts education and hopes to prevent them from ending up like him.
He said: "I want to show the youths a different angle...and instil a mature mindset. This can be done by befriending and connecting with them, showing them other available options."
His advice for wayward youths: "We all have dreams from young. Somehow, that dream gets lost.
"My advice is to go back to that dream and chase it. Gain support from the community."