Lottery winner and former addict loses fortune but finds solace helping others
Sheila North Wilson, CTV Winnipeg
Published Wednesday, December 10, 2014 5:49PM CST
Last Updated Wednesday, December 10, 2014 6:43PM CST
Cutting cocaine was a big part of Farrell Lavallee's life three years ago.
He was a cocaine dealer and addict - one who always dreamed of a better life.
But he says he didn't realize then a better life would mean making meals for the homeless.
"I’m learning how to make a proper sauce with tomatoes,” he said, as he stirred a pot on a stove at the Lighthouse Mission on Main Street.
Lavallee and dozens of volunteers at the mission feed the homeless people hot meals all week.
But in July 2011, he was the one needing help, though he said he didn't realize at the time, especially not after becoming an instant millionaire.
"I'd won 15 bucks that day on tickets. I went and cashed them in at the Shell, bought three more and won the million bucks," said Lavallee.
He went from living in a basement to living in any hotel he wanted, with people who helped him spend his winnings.
He bought cars, a house and went on exotic trips. All things many people say they'd do if they ever won big.
But he was a struggling addict when he won and his addictions and other addicts became his financial advisors.
"It takes a lot of dedication to spend a million bucks in a year on drugs and alcohol," Lavallee said, with a laugh.
He said he lost everything in 13 months and ended up alone in a psych ward.
Lavallee said he eventually turned to Teen Challenge for help and found it - a place he now lives and works in counselling others about beating addictions through faith in God - a God he said that taught him a lesson he didn't know he needed.
"For me, (God) said, ‘Here man - you think money is going to make you happy? Go ahead. Take it. Have all the things you think are going to make you happy and it (won’t).’ And it didn't and today I make $440 a month," added Lavallee.
He earns money now as a counsellor in the mornings before spending his afternoon offering hope at the mission to those who have even less than he does.
A life Lavallee says he wouldn't trade for a million dollars now.
He hopes one day to become a full-time counsellor and run a group home of his own.