GALVESTON, Ind. — Family pictures adorn the walls of the Boyles’ Galveston home. A baby boy smiling for the camera in his Indiana University cream and crimson. That same boy a few years later excitedly holding his prized fish. A young man with a promising future.

Those pictures are all reminders of a life cut tragically short just a little over two months ago.

On June 12, Austin Michael Boyles died of a suspected heroin overdose. He was just 23.

But for his parents Mike and Tammy Boyles, Austin’s death is not how they want their son to be remembered. He was more than just a statistic, his parents said, another tragic case of overdose in small-town USA. He was a young man with a heart for the underdog, his mother said, and he loved to make people laugh.

“He seriously lit up the room with his smile,” Tammy said. “He never complained about anything.”

He was also an aspiring barber, having been enrolled at the Salon Professional Academy in Kokomo. His parents said Austin was a natural at cutting people’s hair, and he would often watch videos on the internet to hone his craft.

A picture of a happy life. And while looks can be deceiving, Austin’s parents said they didn’t have a reason to think otherwise. That all changed on Sept. 3, 2015, Austin’s 23rd birthday. That was the day Austin told Mike and Tammy he had been abusing heroin. That’s also the day the couple said their son made a very important decision.

“He said take me to rehab,” Tammy said.

So Mike and Tammy took Austin to Sycamore Springs in Lafayette, and he went through a week of detoxification. According to Tammy, Austin said that week was like having the worst kind of flu times a thousand.

“But when we picked him up, I thought ‘wow’,” she said. “You didn’t really notice a difference until you saw him.”

But the Boyles said addiction is a disease — and like any other disease, it comes back if not cured.

In October 2015, Austin went to Salvation Army Drug and Rehab in Fort Wayne. He was released in February, and he started up his barbering classes again later that month. Things appeared to begin returning to normal for the Boyles family. Then came June 6.

Tammy discovered what she described as white dirt in Austin’s dresser drawer. She said she confronted her son about it later that evening.

“He said ‘I can’t believe you don’t believe me,'” she said.

Austin then went into his room, and Tammy said she heard a loud crash. She said she ran into Austin’s bedroom and saw him on the ground, already turning blue. She performed CPR and waited for the EMTs to arrive. Austin was injected with two doses of Narcan that night and taken to the hospital.

Tammy said she remembers pleading with her son at the hospital that night.

“I said, ‘do you want to die? Why would you do something like that? You were dead, and they brought you back. Don’t you understand I can’t live without you?'” Tammy said.

Mike and Tammy said Austin kept on telling them his relapses were a result of people, places and things surrounding him. So the couple made a decision to help Austin enroll in barbering classes down in Nashville, Tennessee, where his sister lived. And then they had a wonderful week, Tammy said.

“He was really so excited and seemed so different,” she said. “We had the best week ever with him. He looked at me and said he wasn’t going to do it again. And that was normal thinking, but the drugs cloud your brain, and when the craving comes in, the thinking stops.”

On June 12, Tammy said she couldn’t reach her son on his telephone. She called every friend she knew he had, and he was nowhere to be found. Later that evening, she was told Austin’s car was outside a nearby house. Austin was found inside. By the time the paramedics arrived, it was too late. Mike and Tammy Boyles’ lives were suddenly forever changed.

Both of them say their prayers and Christian faith has helped them deal with their grief.

“It’s our faith in Christ,” Mike said. “I think that’s the only way you can move through something like this.”

And it’s that faith that Mike and Tammy said helped them discover their newest mission.

“After Austin passed, I prayed for something big,” Mike said. “Through researching on the internet, I realized how big of a problem drugs were. There is a drug epidemic, and it’s happening in our small communities. We have to deal with it. It made me realize the big thing I was praying about was bringing awareness to the parents and people in our community.”

So at Aug. 31, the Boyles family was to host an event in Austin’s name at Radiate Student Ministries in Galveston. Wednesday was International Overdose Awareness Day. In the U.S., heroin overdoses killed more than 10,500 people in 2014, the most recent year data was available, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Nearly 18,900 more died of overdosing on opioid pain medications.

The Boyles said they want to see the number of overdose deaths drop to zero. They said they will work the rest of their lives to do their part to help make that happen. And it starts with shedding the light on the concept of drug addiction.

“Addiction can happen to anybody,” Mike said. “I’d like to erase the stigma. My son was smart, talented and beautiful. Those same smart, talented and beautiful kids that people around here have, I don’t want it to happen to them. I’m going to be a voice for every one of them.”

Source: (Logansport) Pharos-Tribune,

Information from: Pharos-Tribune,

This is an Indiana Exchange story shared by the (Logansport) Pharos-Tribune.