Submitted by his sister, Elaine Day

What you should know about Dave

Dave DeCosta

God, addiction is at the bottom of the list. He was such a brilliant kid. He was hacking computers before he got out of middle school, and I don’t mean posting statuses when someone forgot to log out. He was a mastermind.

Dave was an incredibly funny guy. He had no problem walking up to a stranger and saying something off the wall just to make them laugh. He was giving to a fault, felt so much and so strongly. He would quietly slip money out of his wallet to give to someone in need without feeling the need to tell a soul. He was a good man. A great one, in fact.

A specific memory that really captures who he was

Haha. I was adopted by a friend of my mom because she was in the military, and I didn’t meet Dave and Mom until I was 21, but Mom’s favorite story was: One day she was dropping Dave off at school and there was a huge puddle, and he made a break for it.

She called him back and told him he was not to jump, stand, splash, swim or lay in the puddle. He nodded and ran off — and immediately sat in the puddle. Mom probably wanted to kill him at the time, but that story is so quintessentially Dave that it’s her go-to when explaining his personality.

How he would want to be remembered

Dave would probably want to be remembered for his generous spirit and his loving soul. Or his ability to grow an epic beard. He was pretty proud of that, too.

I have two vivid memories of him, and it is a crapshoot which one will pop into my mind as I try to sleep. The first is from the day we first met. It was the best day of my life and the first day I had a brother. I can remember everything about that day, from laying eyes on him and my mother for the first time to him cracking jokes all the way to Colchester from Albany.

Elaine, Mary Lou DeCosta and Dave in 2000, a few weeks after Elaine met them for the first time

The other truly vivid memory is of Dave and his partner B, who was a truly beautiful and wonderful person despite their shared addiction. I had gone to visit, and we were playing pinball and having a good time, and B just passed out. To get her to respond, Dave had to do a sternal rub (rubbing the knuckles on the sternum — painful, but it can be effective in rousing someone who has lost consciousness). I was terrified, and it was the day that I realized that addiction had taken over their lives.

How drugs became a part of Dave’s life

I don’t know when Dave started using. We used to smoke pot and have a good time when he was younger, but as for opioids, I cannot say. He was a master at keeping his use under wraps for quite a long time. Honestly, I had no idea he was using heroin until he flat-out told me. I knew he liked to drink and that B did, as well, and I guess I chose to assume that they were just drunk when I would visit. As far as specific memories, the sternal-rub incident stands out the most.

How Dave fought opioid-use disorder

I am not sure how long Dave used, to be honest. His earlier girlfriend, whom he loved so much, died of an overdose a few years after their breakup, and to the best of my knowledge, that was the trigger. It seems counterproductive to use something that just killed someone you love, but the pain of losing her was destroying him. When he met B, they became sort of codependent; one would try to quit, but the other would not, sort of back and forth for years — until one day she was just gone.

Dave didn’t look like you might expect someone with opioid-use disorder to look

Dave, at the top of Mount Philo

He had friends. He worked a 9-to-5 job that he was never late for. He was a big guy; he wasn’t skinny and wasting away. People think that you can always tell when you see someone if they’re an addict, but you can’t.

How opioid-use disorder changed our relationship

I am so ashamed of this, and I am not sure I ever told our mother, but when I found out that Dave was using, my response was to distance myself from them. I hate it now, hate myself for it all the way to my core. Instead of helping him, I chose to back away. It wasn’t malicious; I’ve just lost so much in my life that I didn’t want to be his best friend anymore and have him die on me. I was selfish. And, ultimately, when he got clean, we became best friends … and he died on me. Dave died of heart damage from drug use — a year after he got clean.

To think of all of the time we could have had and the fact that, just maybe, I could have changed things … it kills me.

Dave beat heroin

What I really want people to remember about him is that he did it: He got clean. The damage may have been done already, but dammit, he had a good period of time where he beat heroin and really became Dave. He wrote beautiful cards to all of us his last Christmas, just a month before he died, and in the end we were spending every night playing PS4 games online together while chatting on the phone and talking about life and dreams.

Dave and Elaine

Our last communication ended with mutual “I love you”s, and that is probably the only solace I have found in the last 10 months. At least I said “I love you.” At least he knew.

If I could say one thing to Dave now, it would be

I love you so much, baby brother, and I am so sorry for every minute I missed while you were here and every minute we have missed together since you passed. Every time something good happens in my life, I still pick up the phone to text you, and it never gets any easier. I still can’t play Monster Hunter. I want so much to pick up where we left off and to play in your honor, but every time I even touch the controller, the hole in my heart starts screaming. I miss you so much, and the Christmas card I received from you just before you passed is easily the most beautiful thing I own. Thank you so much for opening up so eloquently, and I am sorry I didn’t say it sooner.