Written by Jennifer Weiss-Burke, mother, parent advocate and Executive Director of Serenity Mesa
Cameron Martin Weiss
9/26/1992 – 8/13/2011
Cameron was born on September 26, 1992 in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Cameron lived his entire life in Albuquerque where he loved to water ski, snowboard, and hike in the mountains. Cameron loved sports. From the time he was 5, he was always playing soccer, basketball, football, and wrestling. He loved competing and challenged himself in everything he did, even if it was something he wasn’t very good at, he practiced and practiced until he perfected whatever it was he was doing.
Cameron was an incredibly compassionate young man who loved helping people and was always worrying about everyone else. He would see a homeless man on the street and want to stop and give him money and buy him food. He didn’t like to see anyone suffering and from an early age, he carried other people’s burdens and worries as his own.
Cameron loved animals, especially sea turtles. Every year we would try to vacation by the beach and his favorite thing to do was walk down the beach looking for sea turtle nests. He wanted to grow up and become a marine biologist so he could work closely with his favorite animal.
Cameron was incredibly smart. In elementary school, he tested for the gifted program and took many Advance Placement classes. School came easy to him but his favorite classes were English and language arts. His writing skills were amazing and he used his affinity for writing when he would write slam poetry and songs when he was struggling with his addiction.
When Cameron was 16 years old, he suffered a broken collar bone while he was wrestling. He had to have surgery and was prescribed prescription pain killers. Several months later, he broke his other collar bone playing football, he received another prescription for pain killers. Over the next 6 months, Cameron became dependent and then addicted to opioids. He quickly progressed to a heroin addiction when he no longer had easy access to pills. Heroin was cheaper and easier to get. He smoked heroin for about a year before he began injecting the drug. He had always said he would never put a needle in his arm, but the drug beckoned, and he listened…
Drugs changed Cameron almost overnight. He went from being a compassionate young man who loved spending time with his family to a young man who made heroin his primary focus. School, sports, and family - everything took a backseat to his addiction. The drug became his world and it controlled him like a puppet on a string. He was no longer using to get high, he was using to feel “well” and to not be sick.
Cameron passed away on a Saturday morning, August 13, 2011 of a heroin overdose. He was sober off and on most of the year as he was in various treatment centers and jail, so his tolerance for the drug was low. He used more than his body could handle and he overdosed. He died in his bed surrounded by childhood stuffed animals, his favorite blanket, and various sports trophies. I found him and tried to resuscitate him but it was too late, Cameron was gone. His 16-year old sister was in the next room and her seeing her brother lying there, eyes open, pupils fixed and dilated, with a white foam around his lips is an image that is forever seared in her brain. I called 911 and was instructed to perform CPR even though I knew that my son had already passed. When the paramedics arrived, they took over chest compressions giving me a glimmer of hope that maybe they would be able to bring him back. But, he was gone. Our family was never the same after that day. Divorce. Depression. Anger. Intense Grief. Sadness. Loneliness. We all have made attempts to move forward but no of us will ever forget that day or the impression Cameron left on our lives and the lives of those around him. No one remembers Cameron as a drug addict, they remember him as a young man who lost his life way too soon.
I think the world would want to know that Cameron had many things that he wanted to accomplish in life. He never imagined that he would end up addicted to opioids and that a sports-related injury would change his life forever. Cameron planned to finish high school and go to college and start a family, just like every other young man his age. Becoming addicted to drugs and dying as a result of his addiction was the last thing Cameron (or our family) ever thought would happen to him. Cameron would want everyone to know that if it can happen to him, it can happen to anyone. No one is exempt from this terrible disease.
The video that is featured on the show is one that I filmed on my phone when Cameron and I were in a waiting room of a drug treatment center. He was 18 at the time and had just been released from Jail. I picked him up from jail and drove him to Las Cruces, NM to enter a 28-day rehab program. While we were in a room waiting to see a doctor, he started free style rapping so I pulled out my phone to record him.
Cameron's rap Cameron Weiss raps about life, social issues and self respect.
A poem Cameron wrote 4 months before he died:
Overcasted Haze – written on 4/18/11
This dark haze lingers. The scripture punctures me like a stinger. Wish I could go back and change last winter for a more subtle picture with sun beams and trees. But the stone is set, erasable and hard to forget. I travel back stage to the mental theatre where I first met her, not knowing her name or the games that would be played much less the holes she would poke with her mental switchblade. Standing in a haze consumed by the moment, what’s the motive? No idea. No contemplation. Where was the resistance? Sitting there while my mind stood for a while, took a deep breath and dove into her smile. Right into her stress, took everything that came with being obsessed. I made the choice to live in her section. Live by her obsession. She took me on a roller coaster ride of perception, sat there thinking, this woman is my completion, depletion of my own decisions and reason. Locked in a prison just to listen to my thoughts ricochet back and forth all over my mental doors. But still, didn’t stop pursuing, just kept doing, swimming in her tar just to get the feeling, neglecting all the pokes to the throat where she took my hope. You could say this one was no joke she loved to choke out my beliefs with arm ties. The thief of self-worth, the curse she had labeled on her purse, the burdens and the upkeep, money and material, the same song and dance. Inconsistency of the balance, displacement, hatred, resentment, you took me into delusion, case allusion on my eyes at the cost of my demise. The lies that tried to tell the truth. The roots of my shoes from your growing persistence. The resistance I built after my thoughts became distilled, you reeled me in and gutted my existence then left me to rot.
It took me a few days to realize my crave for your touch but was stuck when you dropped me in the ruts. I started to see the cuts so I made the verdict to tighten the nuts and get rid of the crutch, your lust was too much, after seven face lifts to the concrete I accepted defeat but not annihilation. I started pacing, thoughts racing, thinking I gotta find my sanction. I took a deep breath and dipped outta your grips, worked on my social skills and asked for some tips. I started cruising down a different street to get away from your winter cold, kept slipping on the sleet so I redirected my perception and took your lessons with me packed in a bag of memories barred up my arms to reduce the tendencies I let the spirituality seep, now I have my own upkeep as I leap over these trenches, dodging your kind, the tricks. I don’t need your touch now I am throwing your existence in the ruts who will be there to mend your cuts. I linger in my own soul, behold the survivor who got played by the piper. I figured out the tune. Hard lessons, complete sentences.