• Addiction Policy Forum

Steven D.

Updated: Aug 31, 2020

By Steven David's sister, Chrissy

Steven David Dunworth and his son

Santa Cruz, California

Jails, Institutions, and Death.

That’s what ‘we’ say. Our drug/alcohol addictions lead to three places: Jails, Institutions and DEATH… That is what I’m here to write about today on behalf of my beloved big brother, Steven David.

My brother was once a vibrant little boy, like the little boy here, his sweet son… Then something happened; the world got to him. Steve had a heart so sensitive, kind, loving and BIG that it was too sensitive for this cruel world we endure. He had a hole in his armor- one that was penetrated on a daily basis by hurtful words and actions by others. He would give anything to have the love of our middle brother, but that was not to be. It was first weed that took him away from reality, then cocaine, acid, alcohol, but it was HER that got him good.

Black Tar Heroin they call it here, and that’s exactly what did the trick for Steve. It took away all of his pain. It also took away everything else good in his life. The first time he got it, Steve went to ‘the flats’ by himself and did the deed alone. He came to our mutual friend’s house and we begged him not to. It was too late. He had already done some at the dealer’s house and he knew how on his own. He was on a mission that no one could de-rail… He was a hard worker since a teen, but heroin took that drive away. All he could do once he was hooked, (day 1), was think about how, when, and where he was going to get his next fix…

I cannot tell you how many times I called the police on my brother whom I love dearly, just so he could get off the streets and into a program. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve been driving around the streets of our hometown and have either passed him and could hardly recognize him, or found him in a parking lot slumped over the steering wheel of the van my dad gave him. All I ever wanted to do was take that damn addiction away from him, but I couldn’t. He would do anything for HER…. For over 20 years….

On September 24, 2015 my dear brother came to our parents’ door begging for help. He was very sick kicking heroin for at least the 100th time- this time cold turkey. They allowed him in like a wounded animal, or prodigal son. He laid on the couch in complete agony for three days. On the fourth day my dad insisted on taking him to the hospital. Steve was hallucinating, crying out to God repeatedly, vomiting, having nocturnal seizures, losing control of his bodily functions, etc.. For some reason my brother insisted on driving himself to the hospital wearing only underwear and my mom’s blanket. My dad followed right behind.. As soon as Steve got in the van and turned out of the driveway he had a cardiac event, lost control of the car, hopped a curb and went down a small hill. My dad is on O2 day/night, and could do nothing but call 911. The impact was small, but enough that the jaws had to be used to open the driver door- Steve wasn’t breathing…

My mom called me right away and I rushed over; it took about 4 mins. My dad was in shock, but knowing my brother wasn’t breathing when the emt’s came, I knew my dad had to go. I took control of the situation and got my dad out of there while I tied up the loose ends. Then I roared the four blocks to the hospital.. They were waiting for me. You know something is really wrong if the staff is WAITING for you.. They put me in a Conference Room w/my dad and a social worker who, bless her heart, tried to make small talk. Time was stuck in a pool of mud.. Finally a nurse came in with a very worried look. I knew. I knew and I wanted my brother NOW. She said all the things a doctor is supposed to tell you, but obviously he didn’t have the gumption to, then said that this was the end and if we wanted we could be w/Steve.. She wasn’t finished speaking before I was out the door running toward the sounds of which could only come from a room where a person is ‘CODING OUT’. I simply kept calling, “My Brother, My Brother. My sweet Brother!”

With my arms outstretched, crying and praying loudly, I went to my dear brother who fought for his life, and lost it. A man was sitting on his chest, pounding on it when I got there. They covered him enough to give him modesty, but how modest can you be with a tube sticking out of your throat, tubes everywhere, a stint in your leg, and strangers all around??.. I just grabbed his filthy, black feet and wept. I wailed. I moved up his dirty body to his leg, hand, arm, face, and head- I kissed it. His hair was so dirty and greasy, all I could think was that I wanted to clean him so badly.. Then I moved my hands back down to his chubby, soft, fuzzy arm. .. No needle marks, no abscesses, and I just held him. Stroked him. Told him how very much I have always loved him no matter what while my poor father watched like a deer caught in car headlights at the threshold of the door. The chaplain came. He prayed. It didn’t bring him back.. God saw Steve suffering and called him home. Its something we all thought may happen someday, but now that it has, we are devastated. I AM DEVASTATED. My brother was loved. He was loving. He is dearly missed…

I felt horrible that i could not wash him at the hospital- filthy as he was. After spending about an hour with my big brother just talking to his spirit i was finally ‘ready’ to wash my hands and leave.. I couldn’t bear the thought of leaving my beloved, precious, lonely brother on that cold bed covered in a white sheet, but I had to. I asked the nurse to make sure the door was kept closed so looky-lou’s didn’t sneak peeks, as they were when the door was open. She assured me that she would.. Then it took me another 30 minutes to leave the parking lot, where I could see in the window to the room where my once living, now passed, brother was laying. I spent those 30ish minutes speaking to our mutual friend and Godmother to my 1st born son about years gone by, what had just happened, and all the ‘what ifs’. There was nothing either one of us could have done to stop Steve 22 years ago. He had been an addict since I was 8 years old; Heroin was the last stop on his train to self-destruction, as he had already gotten everything he could out of every other drug known to man.

As much as I desperately needed the team to fix him there was one statement that rang clear as a bell. In the midst of my weeping & praying the doctor said, ” I need you to hear me. We have been working on your brother for over an hour; if I continue to do this to him- it is cruel.”.. CRUEL.. That word said it all. My sweet brother had endured so much cruelty throughout his 42 years on earth- Cruelty from friends, Cruelty from LAMES, Cruelty from his own family.. I could not imagine him being put through any more… God had a plan. The plan was to end the cruelty- the shame- the pain- loneliness- the self loathing.

Since I wasn’t able to give Steve the dignity he deserved at the hospital I did what I could at our parents’ home.. He had been kicking for 4 days in the downstairs living room. His illness left a mess that I cannot adequately describe. Without a word I spent about 2 hours cleaning the bathroom alone. I took precautions to ensure my safety. I searched the house for paraphernalia- nothing…

My brother died a warrior’s death. He fought with everything he had. God saw his long term suffering and with arms wide open said, “My son, come to me and you will find rest eternal”…

Steve was cremated a few days after his sudden, unexpected death. That was a hard day for all of us. My dad carried his 1st born home in a beautiful wooden box. A 42 year old man reduced to the weight of a one year old baby…

We all leave a legacy. Our legacies are NOT what we DO, but rather who we ARE. My brother was NOT heroin; he was a gentle, kind spirit that wanted nothing more than to be loved the way he loved others. His is a legacy of loving kindness. He IS remembered for the good he did in his life- not the disease of addiction that he suffered from. He IS remembered for his acts of selflessness as in when a friend OD’d, and Steven threw him over his shoulder and sped to the hospital in the hopes of getting him there in time to save him. He IS remembered for his contagious laughter. He IS remembered with love and fondness. He was a good man and father- Son, Grandson, a friend, and my precious brother…

JAILS, INSTITUTIONS, AND DEATH. My brother experienced the first two many times over. He experienced the last one on 9/29/15, exactly three months prior to his 43rd birthday. Steven David, 12/29/72- 09/29/15. Rest in Heavenly Peace my sweet brother. I will miss you forever. I am so sorry you were unable to find peace while here on earth. I am comforted in the knowing that you have eternal peace now. Mom misses you so much. Dad is still in shock- his first born son.. Gone too soon. Your suffering is over and you are fully healed and fully joyful. I will see you again someday. That will be one glorious day indeed. I love you so much. Thank you for everything you taught me when I was little. xoxoxoxoxo, ChrissyCat

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