"X Factor" Contestant Redemption Tale Includes Brushes with the Law

9/25/2011 6:00 AM PDT

Simon Cowell isn't the only judge "X Factor" contestant Chris Rene has faced in his life -- TMZ has learned Rene was busted twice for drugs ... before he finally found sobriety.

According to police records, Rene was busted in January 2007 for possession of a controlled substance (meth). The case was dropped in 2008 after Rene completed a diversion program.

Rene's drug history goes all the way back to 2002. According to law enforcement sources, Rene was popped in West Hollywood in 2002 for felony possession of cocaine. That case was dismissed after he served probation.

Last week on "X Factor" ... Simon put Chris through to the next round -- provided he "stays on the right track."

So far, so good.