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Austin Eubanks died of an overdose. But the Columbine survivor's efforts to raise awareness of drug addiction echo on

Posted at 5:09 PM, Oct 11, 2019

Aimee Bouc knew Austin Eubanks the way few people did.

“He was not so much the person he was on TV. He wasn’t so serious," she says.

Aimee was once married to Eubanks. The two met as teens and went on to have two children.

Many knew Eubanks as a survivor of the 1999 Columbine shooting. He was shot in the hand and knee in the attack. He battled the impact of addiction and trauma over the 20 years that passed since the shooting.

“I turned to substances to cope. That was the answer for me," Eubanks said in an interview in April for a story marking two decades since Columbine.

Eubanks became a national spokesperson. He gave talks about his struggle becoming a beacon for others struggling the way he did.

"I think it’s really important that not only as survivors of trauma, but survivors of addiction, speak out and share their stories," Eubanks said in April, "You never know when your story is going to change the life of somebody else."

Austin wasn't able to fully escape the darkness of addiction. In May he was found dead in his home, the victim of an overdose.

"There was so much pressure put on him to be this perfect person in the eyes of the world," Aimee says. "He didn’t feel he could actually go and get the treatment when he did go back to it.”

In the months leading up to his death, Aimee suspected he was using again.

“I believe there was always a fight. I don’t believe he was always using, believe that was more recently, Aimee says.

"It never stops being a struggle. I don’t think addiction is something you can just stop struggling one day it’s always a work in progress."

Now, as opioid companies face several lawsuits over the opioid crisis, Aimee says Austin would want more.

“He wouldn’t want it to stop there," Aimee says. "In America, I believe strongly we need to start tackling and treating mental health and anxiety, depression, anything, any kind of problems. Almost like a dental check up in terms of insurance."

Aimee knows progress in fighting the opioid crisis is too late for Austin, but she believes his life will still help others.

"His story and the power behind Columbine really put him front and center of the opioid addiction and his TED talks and everything that he did," she said. "He brought a complete level of awareness and helped so many people and I've read their comments on how he helped them shape their lives. It just brought me tears of joy.”

Aimee recently launched Evergreen MountainWear . Five percent of the proceeds will go to Camp Comfort in Colorado, an organization that supports children ages 6 to 12, who are grieving the death of a family member.