The opioid crisis: When the young die young

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Teenaged Steve working a booth for a
summer restaurant job handing
out cold drinks on a hot day at the lake
By Donna Hawkey 

When I heard that Steve, my 23- year young godson had died, I only remember the feeling of shock that took me over.

He had died of an opioid overdose. Everyone thought Steve was doing great, but can anyone really know what is going on inside another person?

Someone who has always been so trusted, who is at first honest in addressing what has happened, can suddenly be too ashamed to ask for further help. They can fool you into thinking everything is fine.

What follows is a little bit about Steve and his family. When I think of that innocent child and that bright and kind and funny spirit that developed into Steve the young adult, it's just so hard to believe he is gone.

Steve met his best friend Ian
 in preschool
Steve was never a disciplinary problem. He was more like the star of the show. Leading his hockey team to win the state championship with determination and inspiration as the team captain, he was loved and respected by teammates and parents. Steve went on to play college hockey for Chicago’s DePaul University.

He was a great conversationalist and could engage nearly anyone on a topic of their interest offering knowledge and facts.

Steve loved to read, and spent his summers at academic camps exploring philosophy, geopolitics, computers, and one really favorite one, a class called “Fairy Tales on Trial.” (Oh, how fun that was for his family dinner table conversations!)

An honor student in high school, he graduated from DePaul University with honors and a degree in history.

Steve had completed his student teaching and earned his Master’s Degree in Education, as well as a position to teach high school history and to coach the hockey team at his alma mater.

Steve and his dad, Doug
Steve and his brother James had grown up playing hockey. Brothers and best friends, they talked often of coaching the high school hockey team together and developing the program.

A star forward and a star defenseman, their love for the sport was shared from early on, and mom recalls Steve playing goalie so James could practice with shinny sticks in the basement.

In honor of his brother, James is now the Head Hockey Coach for the high school team.

His parents miss him dearly. Steve’s father Doug never missed a hockey game for either of his boys, and this dedication and the sport helped develop a very special father-son bond. This bond still continues with his son, James, and the many hockey friends made throughout the years that have shown much loving support to the entire family. 

Losing a son is an unnatural occurrence and an unthinkable grief to bear.

Steve and his mom, Debbi
Mom Debbi recalls how Steve would come home sometimes and pick her up in his arms and swing her around in the kitchen, in joy and laughter for both of them.

His mother is a very strong lady. 

She said, “He made us laugh and smile nearly every day of his short life. Such a smart, interesting, kind and funny person!!”

To experience this kind of tragic and life altering loss makes Steve’s family want to encourage every person to be on their vigilant guard by getting educated about the opioid crisis and how it now affects everyone’s community.

There is also a need for more aggressive treatment options to combat this addiction cycle faster. New technologies and solutions need to be developed for treating pain without opioids.

Not all patients respond to the current medications used in treating the opioid addiction and not everyone responds well to behavior therapy. Researching treatment options carefully and asking lots of questions are very important. 

With a powerful drug addiction like this, no matter who the person is, expect a lie from them. They can’t really help it until they get the serious treatment needed and as quickly as possible.

We should also be questioning - if our nation is spending $50 billion dollars a year on drug enforcement, investigation, and drug entry controls, then why is the problem getting worse and not better?

Finally, please show compassion and empathy towards anyone that has gotten caught in this tangled death trap.

It can strike anyone, anytime, anywhere and it can really, really surprise you. 

Donna Hawkey is a 21 year resident of Lake Forest Park and can be reached at


Kim Eames February 26, 2018 at 6:09 AM  

I'm SO sorry for your & the families loss of this beautiful soul!!!! Please send my deepest sympathies to the family!!!!
It's a VERY sad time in our world that we spend more on enforcement instead of the health & welfare of getting them help & in finding a way to cure them.
I just wanted you to know I have heard you & hopefullly this sad story will help someone else!!
Blessings to you and his family!!!💖💜💙💖💜💙💖💜💙💖💜💙

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