My speech from Cam’s Club Spaghetti Soirée with the Board event March 23, 2024

Before I share my son’s story, I would like to take the opportunity to graciously thank the Board of Cam’s Club. It is so amazing to me what you all have achieved in such a short period of time. Your tenacity is envious. Thank you so much.

And thank you so much, everyone, for coming and showing your support. I am so grateful for all of you. This journey of grief should not be one that a parent should walk alone. The loss of my son is something that changed me completely.

There is a void in my life that will never be filled again. It is a darkness and loneliness that words cannot explain. And not only is he gone, the way he left us was the ultimate heartbreak.

He was running from his demons, trying to cope with his life, and his choice to use an excessive amount of potent drugs ultimately led to his demise.

This community has been my hometown for 25 years. I have worked alongside many of you in those 20 years, and just like us, you have been affected in some way by the drug epidemic that has plagued our city.

I am urging you all to tonight keep an open mind and, more so, an open heart because we are responsible for initiating change. For the future of our children and grandchildren, we cannot sit idly by and watch them kill themselves.

What I am about to tell you will not be easy to hear. It will be uncomfortable, but with these uncomfortable conversations we will save lives and support those left behind.

There are absolutely no words that I could say to you to describe the emotional wreckage that is a mother hearing that her child has died.

On October 8, 2023 that is exactly what happened.

And although the detailed memories of that afternoon are fleeting, when I heard the police officer say, “Mrs. Aitchison, we found Cameron.” for a split second, and for the first time in days, I felt relief. Because for four days, he had been missing.

He reportedly had some sort of psychotic break; he was not in his right mind. We now know it was due to heavy methamphetamine use mixed with his prescription that was for his ADHD.

When we got word that Cameron was not responding, within hours of our call out to the public, hundreds of you, family, friends and strangers came out to assist us. People were searching, diligently combing through sheds, fields, bushes, yards, ditches and parks. We drove around for hours, calls to friends and family being made, and to no avail.

People went above and beyond their everyday tasks just to help us find my son. It had been a rough four days. The more days that passed, the worse the information got, the outlook not feeling overly positive.

But I had hope—I still had hope—and I clung to it. In all of my 29 years of being a mother, I had never felt such fear.

So like I said, I felt relief.

The relief washed over me because he was found.

Nothing could’ve prepared me for the words that she said next, “He’s dead.”

The earth opened up and swallowed my heart and soul. I thought that I had prepared myself for this, but the more we searched, the more we dug, the more drugs, scary stories and poor choices were discovered.

My house was suddenly filled with people. Just like that, the world changed.

Family, my kids and my friends were piling into our home, calls to my parents, and other relatives had to be made.

I’m barely listening as the police officer is telling me what number to call the coroner for the autopsy results. I was watching her write down the number to the coroner’s office. Autopsy results of a young man who moved back home in May he was supposed to be safe. He had finally made the choice, and I couldn’t have been happier.

Instead of an officer handing me a business card, we should have been watching Cameron blow out his birthday candles and sharing cake.

My three other children- two brothers and his little sister, who had all been searching for days, were all holding each other and crying.

My husband, our friends and family were drowning in sorrow, all of us just clinging desperately to each other, crying so hard we couldn’t catch our breath.

This moment in time is only 10 minutes of what we’ve had to endure for the past six months. I badly wanted him to come home on the 8th of October as it was his birthday. But not as deceased in a ditch of a drug overdose on the side of the road on his 29th birthday.

Prior to all of this, my son of only 29 years lived what I called an adventurous life. He started walking at nine months old, and he didn’t stop moving. His curiosity and zest for life was noticed by all. He loved to imagine himself wrangling dinosaurs, singing with Barney and playing his toy guitar. He was a good kid, so funny; he was always just trying to have a good time.

At school, it was a challenge to keep his attention. He was a good student and smart, but class was boring for him. He was far more interested in the Pokemon creatures outside than the books in the classroom.

Being outside was favoured over studying. Summers were often spent at the cottage, visiting Culver Park, or just hanging out on the farm. Cameron could hop on his bike and be out in the countryside, just happy to be in the sun, or grab his siblings and ask them to go out and build snow castles with him. If we were stuck indoors, it was time for the Game Boy or a Harry Potter movie.

He loved to do the Boy Scouts, had to be in the Cadets so he could do target practice, and he and his friends having adventures that no doubt moms don’t really need to know about. His friends were a constant, he has had the same friends his whole life, his loyalty was evident when he woudnt rat out said friends when they got called to the office.

Cameron’s world was not for the faint of heart.

He held jobs here and there at restaurants, he loved to cook, he was far too clumsy to work construction, and he also went to college for a fish and game warden. His sense of humour would keep us in stitches, making the serious moments lighter. He loved music, fishing and hunting. But he had some demons, and those demons took him bit by bit.

He struggled with low self-esteem. He left home at 17 and then left New Liskeard when he was 18. During this time, he had more than a few violent domestic relationships. It appeared that the partners he chose to be with were of similar personality, and the relationships would often end explosively. Then they would reconcile. It appeared that there was a cycle.

I can’t help but wonder if, without the drug abuse in those relationships, where we would be today. Certainly not in this hall, remembering his death and honouring his life.

I am not unfamiliar with the effects of domestic violence and addiction. Having spent seven years in the same cycle as my son.

Up until I was a teenager, I had led a fairly sheltered life. I was a good student and had little exposure to life I would come to know.

At the age of sixteen, I entered into a relationship of instability and chaos that would ultimately steer me down a path into addiction.

This chaos no doubt was a catalyst to dysfunction that Cameron perceived as normal. It was far from normal, the local police had to intervene in our home more than a few times. My own lack of self-esteem being one of many reasons to keep going back.

This cycle continued, and the damage was being done. Fortunately, when he was four, I was able to move on for one last time.

I met my husband, of today, and we created a beautiful blended family of six. Transitioning into a safe and stable family and a trusting relationship was difficult. Even though I was 24 years old, mentally, I was that naive sixteen-year-old with addictions and low self-esteem I couldn’t trust that it wouldn’t fall apart.

Through trials and tribulations, I had to admit to myself that I had a problem.

And with the support of my family and friends, I have been able to achieve 11 years of sobriety.

Because of said sobriety, Cameron and I sat for hours last summer on my deck talking about how raw and painful life can be, and I believed I’d reached him, that between my story and why he had returned home, he was now on the right path.

But how heartbreaking it is that I was not able to inspire Cameron. He was good at hiding what he didn’t want others to know or see. It was a side of him I never knew.

For this reason, I will hold on to the memories of him smiling, laughing, joking, and being the goofball we all knew and loved.

I hope our story has inspired you today. It is not an easy road, and no one should walk it alone.

Thank you to the speakers. I admire your courage to share such personal stories to strangers. Not only is that courageous; that is how we heal.

Thank you also to the volunteers, sponsors, guests, without all of you we wouldn’t have had this event.

And to the many hundreds of you who reached out personally to offer help, love, or condolences, thank you. I don’t know how to express my love any more.

 Love Cam’s Mom