A gift, genuine, loving, fun, adventurous
Cameron was loving, curious, adventuresome, funny, smart, and sensitive. He loved snowboarding, going to summer camp, and hanging out with neighborhood friends. He also loved to travel, which he did from a young age with his family, both domestically and internationally. Every year the family took a vacation to various places including Alaska, the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, Hawaii, Mexico, and backpacking in Europe.
From the time he was six, Cameron was interested in sampling exotic foods and in eating at ethnic restaurants. This led Cameron to an interest in cooking as an adult. He also won several awards in snowboarding competitions and earned his SCUBA diving certification.
His mother, Marsha, related a favorite story about Cameron: In middle school, he was learning to play the clarinet. He was told to practice for 30 minutes each evening. “One night, I was cooking dinner and heard him playing upstairs,” his mother said. He called down and asked her if he was improving. She wasn’t sure but wanted to encourage him, so she said, “I think so.” Shortly after, she went upstairs to find Cameron reclining on his bed, pushing the repeat button on his tape recorder over and over.
The family had several fun traditions, including betting on when the first snowfall would happen; whoever won got to pick a restaurant for dinner. Every Christmas, Cameron watched A Christmas Story for 24 hours straight and on family birthdays, the birthday person got to choose a favorite cake and a special meal.
Cameron was talented at tuning in to people’s feelings and emotions and was a loyal and loving friend. He would lend people money, allow them to stay in his apartment, and share food and other resources with them. He was also skilled in getting people to do the things he didn’t want to do himself! However, as his addiction progressed, Cameron went from being open, helpful, and fun to distant, guarded, angry, and depressed. He could be selfish, aloof, untrustworthy, and abrasive.
“The most difficult part of Cameron’s addiction was that it robbed me of the son I always knew,” his mom said. She was constantly torn between setting firm boundaries and trying to help him, wondering if she was enabling his addiction. As a mental health professional, she felt she should have been able to detect the seriousness of his drug use earlier and help him stop using. “His addiction embarrassed me,” she said. ‘The stigma of addiction kept me isolated from others who were also suffering in silence. Rather than isolate like I did, I encourage parents to join support groups and speak about the devastating effects of addiction. I believe being a vocal advocate is the only way to eliminate the stigma of addiction.’
Dr. Wiggins has published a book, From Heroin to Hope: Making Sense of the Loss of a Child, in which she describes her experience of having a son who suffered from substance use disorder, and offers help to others who are navigating the loss of a child. She is now doing public speaking about addiction and working with other parents who have lost their children to SUD.
Cameron’s mother, Marsha Wiggins, provided the information for this narrative.
November 20, 1986-August 9, 2013
Age 26-Lived with the disease of addiction 10 years