For Cameron Douglas, it started as teenage bouts of drinking, pot-smoking and hijinks. But before long, the son of Hollywood icon Michael Douglas was abusing cocaine and heroin. By his 20s, Cameron was carrying a gun and dealing methamphetamines to support his spiraling habit.
“I hated the wreckage I saw in my life because of drugs, but I just couldn’t stop,” Cameron, now 40, tells PEOPLE exclusively in this week’s cover story.
Feeling all but helpless on the sidelines were Cameron’s parents, Michael, and Diandra, 63, a former model and producer, whose attempts at getting their son help over the years largely fell on deaf ears.
“There were moments when hope dwindled… and then it’s just a train out of the station,” Michael, 75, tells PEOPLE exclusively. “Life became a series of crises. I thought I was going to lose him.”
For a time, Cameron shot up cocaine nearly daily and withstood drug-induced seizures.
“It’s the sneaky power, the stranglehold that addiction has when you’re in the throes of it,” he says. “When you get that far down the rabbit hole, there are a couple options: there’s prison and then there’s death.”
For more about Michael and Cameron Douglas, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday.
Cameron narrowly escaped the latter, but in 2009 a DEA sting operation landed him behind bars. He faced a five-year term for conspiracy to distribute meth and cocaine. In all, Cameron would spend nearly eight years in prison — the sentence was extended for possession while he was incarcerated — but he emerged in 2016 a changed man.
Today, Cameron is raising his beloved 22-month-old daughter Lua with longtime girlfriend Viviane Thiebes, 41, a yoga instructor, working on restarting his acting career and feeling deep gratitude that his family never gave up on him.
Determined to help other addicts “seek help – and maybe save a life,” Cameron shares his harrowing, and ultimately inspiring, journey in an upcoming memoir, Long Way Home, excerpted exclusively in this week’s issue.