Michael and Cameron Douglas sat down with Diane Sawyer for an ABC News exclusive interview that aired Tuesday night, and the father-son duo didn’t shy away from hard truths — about their relationship, or about Cameron’s descent into (and ultimate deliverance from) drug addiction. In the heartrending special, Michael admits he got to a point where he was “not willing to commit emotionally” to his son for a gut-wrenching reason: He didn’t think Cameron would survive.
“Desperate” to save his son during the height of Cameron’s addiction, Michael effectively hired two men to kidnap Cameron and try to force him go to rehab. The plan crumbled when Cameron turned aggressive, and it became a breaking point in their relationship. “I don’t think we talked for a while after that,” Cameron said, pointing out, “I think everything made me so mad because I was so mad at myself.”
For Michael, he eventually tried to convince himself not to care. He called Cameron, leaving a voicemail that explained he loved him but he was done. “We had reached a point where I thought I was going to lose him based on everything I’d seen, and was not willing to emotionally commit anymore,” an emotional Michael admitted. “At what point do you protect yourself or your other loved ones around you before you get dragged into this and it falls apart? It destroys you. It just destroys you.”
Part of the reason the men are opening now has to do with Cameron’s new memoir, Long Way Home. However, they hope that bringing up their painful past might help other families who are going through the same difficult cycle of addiction that the Douglas family seems to have finally overcome. Because, as is clear from the interview, it’s a journey that can break you in a million different ways before you find a way to break free.
For Cameron, the son of Michael and grandson of Hollywood icon Kirk Douglas, that journey started at 13, the first time he did pot. At 15, he tried cocaine, by 17 he’d sampled meth, at 19 he was shooting liquid cocaine and, by his late 20s, he had dabbled with heroin. At his worst, he was shooting up with liquid cocaine every two to three hours. When the veins in his arms and legs collapsed, he injected it in his rib cage and neck. In 2009, he was arrested for drug possession — serving seven years behind bars, including maximum security and almost two years in solitary confinement.
When asked by Sawyer how close he was to dying, he replied, “Probably pretty close.” In his book, he describes his lifestyle as “playing a game of chicken” with himself… a sort of self-sabotage was possibly born out of his deep desire to earn the respect and love of his famous father and grandfather. “I thought that I was fundamentally not put together properly, and since that was the case, I was just going to take it as far as I could take it and come what may,” he told Sawyer, adding of drugs, ” It was almost like, you know, the one thing that I could count on. And I guess I didn’t have the courage to try to move forward without it.”
— Good Morning America (@GMA) October 23, 2019
Could Michael have done anything differently to help his son, Sawyer asked? “You know, I’m just laughing because you rack your brain. You take it personally. In the beginning, you blame yourself. Then you look at your genetic makeup. My career was first — my career came before my family. My marriage was not great, and so you do hide yourself in your work. I should have focused more on my family, but that’s hard to say when you’re in the midst of a career. When you are, in your own mind, stepping out of your father’s shadow, trying to create a life of your own,” he confessed.
But now, the father and son seem to be in a much healthier space. Cameron, who was released from prison in 2016, says he is clean and sober. Michael says he’s proud of him for the progress he’s made. And when Sawyer suggests it’s a bit of a miracle Cameron is even there to sit down with her and his father, he seems genuinely hopeful: “I like the sound of that word. It sounds good. We’ll see if I can turn it into that — I think that remains to be seen.