You know your life is severely off the rails when you show up at your bartending job and your bar manager pulls you into his office saying, “I don’t even want to address the close-out of the cash register. Is that you doing karate on the video camera, breaking the door?” This was not what Cameron W. had planned. He once had dreams of being a successful actor, writer and comedian. Instead, he was a 34-year-old alcoholic who couldn’t hold down a job.
Cameron grew up in Ohio with his mom, enjoying a simple and happy Midwest childhood. He did well in school but had aspirations of landing it big in the acting scene. So, when he was 17, Cameron headed out west and moved in with his dad. He flourished at UC Irvine. “I never had a problem with drinking in college. The problem really started after school. I got this theater degree and honors in acting… and now what?” Like so many, Cameron thrived under structure but crumbled once he set forth into the real world, a world that didn’t give him the validation he so desperately sought. Cameron became a lost soul, fumbling to find purpose in Los Angeles. “L.A. is a town full of people who think they know what they want. But what they want is intangible, and they don’t know how to get it. I was one of those people,” he says.
Cameron waited tables and tended bar to get by, but his drinking soon grew from social lubricant to emotional crutch.. “For my 25th birthday, I gave myself a DUI. I just thought, ‘well, it’s about time’ and continued drinking the next day,” he recalls. Cameron’s parents decided it would be best if he dried out in Palm Springs. “It was okay at first, but in reality, I was the problem and I took the problem with me,” he reflects. He spent six years in the desert, doing community theater, trying to find fulfillment and, of course, drinking.
Finally, the promise of a more exciting life called to Cameron, and he moved closer to San Diego. “I knew I was an alcoholic, but I wasn’t ready to quit. I romanticized Leaving Las Vegas. These were my Bukowski years. I was F. Scott Fitzgerald before he wrote Gatsby,” Cameron explains. He fancied himself a tortured artist but was only living the torture. Cameron couldn’t hold down a job or keep an apartment. His girlfriend left him and he was on the precipice of losing his mind. After being evicted, Cameron spent a week wandering the streets of San Diego. “I was a hobo. I had lost my wallet and was stealing liquor,” he remembers. Then, out of the blue, an old friend from L.A. called and invited him over for Thanksgiving. Cameron spent his last few dollars on a bus ticket and returned to L.A. He stayed on his friend’s couch but quickly wore out his welcome.
Broke and broken, Cameron made his way to the UCLA Medical Center to detox. He was given a list of county-funded treatment centers and called each one until he stumbled upon Beit T’Shuvah, which was only on the list by clerical error. Cameron spoke to Ryan and then to Lysa. He came in to interview and on December 15th, 2016 he became a resident. “I had nothing. No future. No money. No purpose. And Beit T’Shuvah took me in,” he says.
Cameron lived the mantra of Beit T’Shuvah: he recovered his passion and found his purpose. “I got to restructure how I found validation. The Family Immersion program brought me closer with my family. I worked with Michael Kamenir in the theater department. I started doing The Miracle Project. Beit T’Shuvah gave me so many opportunities which have now grown into opportunities outside of Beit T’Shuvah,” he explains. As part of his recovery, Cameron devoted himself to his love of comedy. “I started doing stand-up at Canter’s Deli. I mean, it only makes sense that while I was living in a Jewish rehab a big part of my comedy would take place in a deli,” he chuckles.
Utilizing his comedic chops and in an effort to give back to Beit T’Shuvah, Cameron is emceeing a night of comedy on February 23rd at 7pm. “A Funny Thing Happened on My Way to Rehab” will feature a night of talented rising stars in the L.A. comedy scene. “I’m so grateful to this magical place,” Cameron smiles. ”My hope with this night of comedy is to spread the cheer, after all, you gotta laugh at the pain.”