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Winning the Lottery For An Drug Addict Can Be A Life Sentence: RIP David Lee Edwards

Millions of people play the lottery each year, myself included. I am not an avid gambler but I will play when the jackpots reach hundreds of millions of dollars. It is fun to dream about all the things you could buy with the money. It's an interesting conversation to have with coworkers and friends of what you would do when you "win".  If you are in recovery, it may be something you never really want to happen. It may end up being a death sentence.

I was the type of addict who was always looking for money. Money was the route of all evil for me. I didn't have a high paying job and my addiction was well over the price I earned from my job.  I would do anything necessary to feed the habit. My habit grew to a point where I could not afford it. I had become a prisoner to my addiction and began making terrible decisions. This makes me wonder what would of happened if I had won the lottery and money wasn't an issue.  Would I still be alive today?

Most addicts in recovery have a stable platform for which they live and in order to be successful, need to maintain it. Each moment you are clean seems like a blessing but what would happen if you really did win the lottery? You might be reading this and say, “Doesn't matter how much money I have, I would never go back.” This may be true for you, but some would want to celebrate with the comfort feeling of being on top of the world. Unlimited money, no reason to work, and the ability to have anything you want.  This could easily lead to the temptation to "use" again.  The rationale being that I'm not taking the painkillers to hide my depression or struggles in life. I'm taking the painkillers to "celebrate!".  Unfortunately having money doesn't get rid of your demons, problems, or most importantly your addiction.  If anything, it just fuels the fire.

We all can learn from David Lee Edwards, a man who became suddenly rich in 2001. Eighteen drawings had failed to produce a winner in 21 states for the Powerball. The Powerball jackpot had was more than $280 million, the third-largest in U.S. history at the time.

Saturday, August 25, 2001, David purchased a ticket at a convenience store in Westwood, Kentucky. He was 46 years old, a high school dropout, and an ex-con who had robbed a gas station 20 years prior. He'd spent a most of his life in and out of jail. He was receiving unemployment and owed many months of back child support. He had chronic back pains from a car accident he was in years earlier. That day changed his life when he hit the jackpot. After taxes, and taking the cash option David was $28,000,000 richer. He won what all lottery players hope for...the jackpot.

David had the world in his hands. He had everything he had ever dreamed of. He had money, time, friends, and family.  Unfortunately he was also addicted to crack, prescription painkillers and heroin. You hear stories about how money ruins people's lives.  How common it is for lottery winners to spend all their money quickly, and unfortunately David was no exception.

After spending money on lavish items like a Lamborghini, a private jet, and multiple homes and businesses, David also spent frivolously on his friends and family. His drug problem escalated as time went on and his wife Shawna was in and out of rehab centers. David was eating Oxycontin like candy and lending money to friends so they can get drugs as well. Over time many of his friends overdosed on painkillers that he paid for.  Either feeling guilty, remorseful, or just being a friend with money, and he started paying for their funerals.  Having all of the money in the world did not fix his problems, and he is the perfect example.  After the first year he blew through almost $12 million dollars. Within a few years, he was broke having gone through all $28 million dollars of his winnings.

David Lee Edwards died on November 30th, 2013. He had been very ill since contracting hepatitis from sharing dirty needles. He passed away broke and alone. But this tragic story can teach us all that having money may lead you to more problems, especially if you have a history of substance abuse.

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