'This is proof that what looks perfect, is not perfect': Family's shock and devastation after surf-loving Orange County couple die side-by-side of drug overdoses in girl's childhood bedroom (4 Pics)

On her bed, next to a teddy bear, was the pink-and-blue striped baby blanket she came home from the hospital with as a newborn, and always kept close by despite a few holes worn in over the years.
She’d organized the clothes she planned to wear for her 6 a.m. shift at a Newport Beach coffee shop. She had neatly-written notes as reminders: Study for geo. Work on your speech. Love Christian.
Paulo Avila looked around his daughter’s room for clues that would hint Michelle Avila was a drug user, and found none.
But on Oct. 14, just a month shy of her 24th birthday, she and boyfriend Christian Kent overdosed and died side-by-side in that same room.

Through tears, Avila said there was only one reason he could find strength to talk about their drug overdose.
“Parents need to know their kids are not safe.”

Zero signs

Michelle Avila was born in Santa Monica in 1994. A few years later, Paulo and Adriana Avila packed up the family, including their oldest daughter Nicole, to move to Newport Beach – a safer place with better waves than Los Angeles, Avila said.
Michelle was a star student who once received a letter from President George W. Bush praising her outstanding academics. Avila taught the sisters how to surf at a young age, and Michelle had a special affinity for horses, motorcycles and photography, being behind the lens or in front of it.
The Newport Harbor High School graduate spent the past few years traveling to Indonesia, Bali, Costa Rica and Brazil, and was studying communications at Orange Coast College while juggling a job at Alta Coffee in Newport Beach.

She was stunningly beautiful, blue eyes as crystal clear as Hawaii’s water, one of her favorite places and where her ashes were released after her death. Her hair was sun-kissed blonde, with soft curls tousled like she had just come out of the sea.
Her look also had some edge to it.  Tattoos painted her skin, some with messages. One read “Vacation Forever.” Another, perhaps a warning to herself: “Life is a gamble.”
Michelle and Christian fell in love hard and fast, dating for about a year. She wrote a love letter on social media to him in August as he went away to college in San Diego.
“It’s crazy how two souls can connect so deeply & quickly…can’t wait for some more amazing memories to be made,” she wrote.
Christian, who also grew up in Newport, was tan from days spent outdoors catching waves, his blond hair worn long, touching his broad shoulders. The two together looked like they just stepped out of the pages of a magazine.
Michelle grew up openly talking to her parents about friends who were headed down the wrong path, some who had died from overdoses. Her parents never thought she would be involved with drugs.
“I’d rather have an addicted person where I could see and try to fix it,” Avila said on a recent day. “Other than to have trust in someone and never expect … that’s why we’re so devastated, there were no signs. Zero signs.”

An epidemic

Drug overdose – or poisoning – is the leading cause of unintentional injury death in the United States.
Statistics from Orange County show that there were 7,457 opioid overdose or abuse cases treated in emergency departments between 2011 and 2015.
The study released last year by the Orange County Health Agency shows alarming figures when it comes to drug use – and deaths – in the county.
Seven out of every 10 overdose deaths investigated by the Orange County Sheriff-Coroner during that five-year period involved opioids.
The areas seeing the most emergency room visits were coastal cities like Huntington Beach, Dana Point, Costa Mesa, San Clemente and Laguna Beach.
Drug overdose deaths increased by 88 percent between 2000 and 2015, and nearly half of all deaths were due to accidental prescription drug overdoses, according to the study.
Huntington Beach, where Michelle was living at the time of her death, had 106 overdose deaths in the five years spanning 2011 – 2015, the last time the county took a hard look at the figures.
Neighboring coastal city Newport Beach had 41, and Santa Ana had 91. Anaheim had 123 deaths, and there were 112 homeless people who died of overdoses during that period.
In all of the county, 1,207 people lost their lives after drug overdoses during those five years. On average, about 241 people in Orange County die from a drug overdose each year.
forum hosted with the Alcohol Drug Advisory Board recently showed there were 1,711,809 prescriptions for opioids in 2015.

Surfers and drugs

Drugs and surfing have a long history.
Decades ago the stigma of surfers as stoners was perpetuated by movies like “Fast Times at Ridgemont High.” But in recent years, the harder, deadlier drugs have seeped into the surf community as they’ve flooded into Orange County’s coastal towns.
South Bay pro surfer Alex Gray speaks regularly at high schools about his brother Chris’ struggle with heroin addiction, and eventual death. A movie released earlier this year about the life and death of three-time world champion Andy Irons shows how pills and other drugs can have a tragic outcome for even the most successful surfers.
In 2013, locals were shocked when Huntington Beach surfer Chris Love, who competed in contests and was part of the Huntington Beach High School surf team, took a deadly concoction of prescription pills and narcotics and died at age 20.
“We miss him, we talk about his smile and his happiness,” said surf coach Andy Verdone.
Verdone said he talks openly to his students about drug use, and believes the younger generation is beginning to realize the deadly consequences of opioids.
“It’s an absolute game of Russian roulette when you’re dealing with drugs. There’s only two outcomes — death or rehab,” he tells his students.
Now, more than ever, it’s important to watch the kids carefully and take note of strange behavior, he says.
“We have to get to know our kids,” he said. “If we see the signs, we step in and try to help – and that’s all we can do.”
According to the report, the Orange County Alcohol and Drug Advisory Board is working on an “Opioid Strategic Plan” that will “identify individual and community needs in Orange County and effective strategies to address these needs,” focusing on education and prevention, early intervention, treatment and recovery.
For Michelle, Christian, and the rest who have died in recent years from overdose — it’s simply too late.

Unanswered questions

Michelle had been staying with her parents in their Huntington Beach apartment to save money.
The evening before the couple died, they returned from a party at a friend’s house and wished her parents a good night. Michelle was taking antibiotics and wasn’t even drinking so she could get over a cold, she said to her parents.
The next morning, Adriana Avila found them dead in bed.
Hundreds of people came together to remember Christian, 20, during a paddle out in Newport Beach shortly after his death.  Michelle’s ashes were scattered in Hawaii.
Both were remembered by friends during an art exhibit that showed photos of the pair last Saturday in Costa Mesa.
Nicole wrote a tribute on social media to her sister on what would have been her 24th birthday on Nov. 14. Every year, they would go to Benihana in Newport Beach, the family’s favorite place to celebrate milestones.
“You’d order two chicken fried rice instead of one, because you were so obsessed,” Nicole wrote. “I wish I could yell at you and tell you how hard it has been.”
It’s unclear what drug – or drugs – the pair took that led to their deaths, with toxicology reports from the Orange County Coroner expected to take months to complete.
But Michelle’s father, as much as he doesn’t want to believe it, is certain it was a deadly drug overdose, based on what police and experts have told the parents.
The couple’s story has been cut short — and those left behind, like Avila, are wondering why.
“What happened to those kids? What did they do? What happened to get to that point?”
Avila can’t help but blame himself for the tragic outcome. Tears flow as he looks at her photos.
“You’re supposed to care for what God gave you, and she was God’s gift. That’s what’s eating me, from inside out… how come I failed?
“It just destroys me.”
Friends have put together a GoFundMe account in her name. Avila hopes to use the funds to start a program to educate youth about drug use. He has his own healing to do, but hopes somehow he can stop someone else’s child from making the same mistakes.
“This is the proof that what looks perfect, is not perfect,” Avila said. “My mission, at least on my coast from Seal Beach to San Clemente, is to send a message. To show how beautiful people can go through something like that. You’re protected by nothing.”
'This is proof that what looks perfect, is not perfect': Family's shock and devastation after surf-loving Orange County couple die side-by-side of drug overdoses in girl's childhood bedroom (4 Pics) 'This is proof that what looks perfect, is not perfect': Family's shock and devastation after surf-loving Orange County couple die side-by-side of drug overdoses in girl's childhood bedroom (4 Pics) Reviewed by STATION GOSSIP on 02:45 Rating: 5

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