During his time in prison, Cameron Douglas envisioned one day “stepping down in New York, landing every job and being the toast of the town,” he told National Conference on Addiction Disorders attendees on Thursday.
That wasn’t his reality immediately upon release, but today, Douglas said he’s healthy, feeling relatively happy and making strides, both personally and professionally, every day.
In a wide-ranging Q&A session, Douglas discussed his time in incarceration for drug-related offenses, his best-selling book about his journey in recovery titled Long Way Home, and how he is now maintaining his sobriety.
Douglas said it has taken years to dig himself out of the hole he started digging in his youth. The son and grandson of a pair of Hollywood icons—Michael Douglas and Kirk Douglas—Cameron said his drug use started with marijuana at the age of 13 and later moved on to heroin and cocaine. It was hard for him to pinpoint what led to a path of substance use, but it was likely a combination of factors, starting with a genetic predisposition, the younger Douglas said.
“We have substance abuse that runs fairly prevalently in our family,” said Douglas, whose uncle Eric died of an overdose in 2004. “As a kid growing up, I don’t think I felt any undue stress due to what my grandfather and father did for a living and the success they found. Maybe I felt some extra pressure to succeed unknowingly.
“Certainly, there was an element of loneliness as a kid. I remember being lonely and wanting to fill that void and find acceptance with peers. … I had some self-esteem issues, but I didn’t realize it until I was an adult. From a young age, I was trying to find things I was good at and ways to stand out. One of those lanes I found the feeling I was searching for was through the connection drugs bring about with peers. Further along the road, I noticed that feeling of loneliness was quenched. It took the place of a lot of those shadows I was dealing with in my life.”
A drug dealing conviction sent Douglas to prison, where he spent significant time in solitary confinement and at one point went two years without being allowed visits even by immediate family members.
“I remember laying down and feeling something inside of me breaking,” he said. “It was a scary moment because at that point, I realized I had two paths. One path would be one where I never made it home. The other one was the path that would eventually help me find my stride.”
Douglas stopped using and began attending a treatment program where he was incarcerated. Upon release, he said he started attending 12-Step meetings and he now meets weekly with a psychiatrist.
“I’m a big believer in routine,” Douglas said. “That’s something I really learned in prison. It was always a part of my DNA. My father is a big routine guy. My grandfather is the same. I’ve learned I am too. Routine is very important to me.”
Maintaining both physical and mental health are integral parts of that routine. Douglas' partner, the mother of his child, is a yoga instructor who “practices what she preaches” and has helped him build strength in mind, body and spirit. Douglas said staying tightly connected with family and close friends has also been a key.
Douglas is happy that his book, which was released last October, has resonated with readers. It is now being adapted into a TV series that will be loosely based on his experiences. Douglas, who earlier this year completed work on one independent film with another one waiting to begin, pending the COVID pandemic, said he hopes he can help others by sharing his story.
“Trying to be part of the solution instead of the problem is the idea. When it’s all said and done, one wants to look back on their term on this planet and feel they helped leave the world a bit better than they found it or made the effort to do so,” he said. “That’s my motivation as well, to create and be positive and hopefully leave a legacy that is inspiring and helpful and filled with love and compassion. I’m very aware of all the attention I used to get when I was struggling with my addiction and prison. It feels good to see positive things starting to transpire with me at the helm.”