A Columbine survivor who was shot twice and left for his death while his best friend was murdered next to him has exposed the lifelong trauma he suffered on the eve of the twentieth anniversary of the tragic high school shooting.
On April 20, 1999, almost 20 years ago to this day, Dylan Klebold, 17 and Eric Harris (18) embarked on a murderous rampage in which 12 students and a teacher were dead.
Austin Eubanks was only a 17-year-old younger when the sound of gunshots through the corridors of Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, began to sound and changed his life and the life of every person at school that day.
The attacks would put the young man in a spiral of alcohol abuse, drug addiction, guilt and despair of the survivor – surviving on a cocktail of powerful painkillers and drink – until finally, when things were darkest, he began to withdraw from the brink .
Just a Child: Austin Eubanks was just a 17-year-old youth when the sound of gunshots began to ring through the corridors of Columbine High School in Colorado, changing his life and the life of every person at the school that day
Tragedy: on April 20, 1999, almost 20 years ago to this day, Dylan Klebold, 17 and Eric Harris (18) embarked on a murderous robbery in which 12 students and a teacher died
& # 39; I had a routine where I would meet my best friend Corey DePooter in the library and discuss what we would do after school, & # 39; Eubanks told DailyMail.com in an exclusive interview.
& # 39; When we sat down, the shooting started. A teacher came in and shouted at us to hide under tables, but I remember that most people just got up.
& # 39; This was 1999, nobody knew what a powerful gunfire sounded in the corridors of a high school.
I was playing dead there. I was hit twice, but I knew Corey was gone
& # 39; Then she called again to us and we realized that this was serious, so Corey and I hid under a table when the shooters invaded. They went methodically from section to section to ours. & # 39;
That is when Eubanks says he has detached himself from reality. Klebold fired several gunshots under the table and hit him in the leg and hand.
He survived and pretended to be dead, but his friend wasn't so lucky. Bullets pierced DePooter & # 39; s neck, chest and arm and killed him immediately.
& # 39; I was playing dead there. I was hit twice, but I knew Corey was gone – he was the last person killed during the shooting that day. & # 39;
Satisfied with their actions, the shooters moved until finally, when the coast was clear, Eubanks and the surviving students were running to safety.
Eubanks says he has detached himself from reality. Klebold fired several gunshots under the table and hit him in the leg and hand. He survived and pretended to be dead, but his friend wasn't so lucky. Bullets pierced DePooter & # 39; s neck, chest and arm and killed him immediately
& # 39; My right hand was bleeding, but I felt no pain and did not register what happened. I was disassociated and didn't even realize that my leg was injured until I tried to run.
& # 39; I was taken to hospital for treatment and then my story really started. & # 39;
Now 37 years old and a motivational speaker, Eubanks reveals that he was unable to cope with the grief he had incorporated into an opioid addiction in an attempt to numb the pain with a daily intake of alcohol and prescribed pain killers.
When I took those substances, I didn't cry so much, it didn't hurt so much
& # 39; I was starting with 7.5 mg of Vicodin plus a number of other medications to help with sleep and shock. I turned myself into an emotionless robot until I couldn't feel anything anymore.
& # 39; When I took those fabrics, things felt better. I didn't cry so much, things didn't hurt so much.
Soon the alcohol abuse of Eubanks led to marijuana, then to ecstasy and cocaine and even during his worst period – heroin.
All of this had to push back all emotions – sadness, anger, debt of despair – to survive on a day when 13 others did not.
Although his wife at the time helped him start a 28-day recovery program, Eubanks couldn't defeat his demons and quickly glide back to old ways.
One night he woke up in prison without remembering how he got there. He had turned black in a restaurant and was arrested while wondering about the streets in a drug-addicted street. That moment, he decided, was the rock bottom on which he would build the foundations of his new life
At the height of his addiction, he says he takes 400 mg of the highly addictive and potentially deadly painkiller Oxycontin every day – more than 40 times the dose that doctors will initially prescribe patients.
& # 39; Addicted brains don't make sober decisions and I immediately returned to my life after 28 days of treatment and then got worse. Then I went to the treatment for 90 days and slowly fell back into old behavior with old friends.
One night he woke up in prison without remembering how he got there. He had turned black in a restaurant and was arrested while wondering about the streets in a drug-addicted street.
That moment, he decided, was the rock bottom on which he would build the foundations of his new life.
& # 39; At the age of 29, in 2011, I stayed in treatment for 14 months, where I finally started dealing with the debt of the survivor. Only then did I go through the stages of sorrow that I had to go through when I was 17. & # 39;
He still experiences ups and downs nowadays, but Eubanks finds himself in a much better place and travels the country while sharing his journey with others who fight against such a trauma.
He passionately believes America & # 39; s rush in treating pain instead of focusing on the deeper human connection is one of the biggest problems it faces today.
Journey to recovery: Nowadays he is still experiencing ups and downs, but Eubanks is in a much better place and travels the country to share his journey with others who fight against such a trauma
Eubanks passionately believes America & # 39; s haste in dealing with pain instead of focusing on the deeper human connection one of the biggest issues it faces today
& # 39; We are creating a country that is a powder keg, filled with loneliness, isolation, anger and division of people.
& # 39; It's because of a lack of human connection and because everything is designed to make you feel good and addictive. & # 39;
Eubanks is determined to help others who are struggling to cope with trauma and turn to substances to break free from reality.
I have a photo of him at my office and I have a photo of him at my home. I no longer think of sadness – I think of happy times
As the days decrease until April 20, 2019, Eubanks says that his best friend DePooter is never far from him.
He keeps a picture of him in his office and in his house – to remind him, not because of the sadness, but because of the good times they shared.
In previous years, he only marked the day on fly fishing – a passion he and his best friend shared. It allows him to be in the moment and introspective.
This year he will be in Florida for Easter, attending a church service on a beach surrounded by friends and loved ones.
& # 39; I have a photo of him at my office. I have a picture of him at home. I no longer think about the grief – I think about the happy times when he fly fishing and playing golf. & # 39;
In previous years, he only marked the day on fly fishing – a passion he and his best friend shared. It allows him to be in the moment and introspective. This year he will be in Florida for Easter, attending a church service on a beach surrounded by friends and loved ones
But when he thinks of the day, unselfishly, he never thinks of the trauma he has suffered, instead his emotions are about the loss of a best friend.
& # 39; I've been thinking about that for a while, and the most powerful memory that connected me to Columbine is the loss of the best friend – it's not what happened to me – it's the loss of Corey.
The most powerful memory that connects me to Columbine is the loss of my best friend
& # 39; I will never again be the person I was on the morning of April 20 – that person had fundamentally changed on that day.
& # 39; I am, however, grateful if I only look at myself, I have experienced post-traumatic growth. There was a meaningful development of personal character that enabled me to do the work that I do today that I believe is valuable.
& # 39; But it's really hard to go back to that day and think "what would you do, what would you say" to 17-year-old Austin, because truth is the most powerful emotion of that is the loss of my best friend and it's hard to separate the two.
& # 39; The sorrow never leaves you – it never leaves you – there is always a piece, even if you reach a healthier place with it. You learn to manage it, but there will always be a piece of that sadness in me. & # 39;