It would seem that winning the D.C. Instant Lottery's first $1 million drawing gave Mara Spade one of the few things money isn't supposed to buy: happiness.
Spade, who was one of two million-dollar winners in 1982, said that one of the first things she did with her prize money was start seeing a psychotherapist, something she had not been able to afford on her $13,000-a-year salary as a bartender at a downtown Washington hotel.
"It was one of the best things I ever did," Spade, 41, said last week of the year and a half she spent in therapy.
Spade, a widowed mother of two, said that at the time of the drawing she was fighting depression and a drinking problem. She was too nervous to attend the drawing ceremony and sent her daughter Darah, now 18, in her place.
Today, Spade says, she is much more self-confident and enjoys long walks near the suburban home she bought with some of her winnings.
During her transition to a "better than middle class" existence, she bought stereo equipment, a VCR, a down comforter and wall-to-wall carpeting. She said she plans to give her daughter some money this fall, either for travel or for college.
Spade's son Doug, now 21, who had hoped that his mother's windfall would supply him with tennis lessons, is paying for his own education at the University of Maryland. He was awarded a scholarship to play tennis for the school but was forced to quit the team after it was discovered that he had the same heart ailment that killed his father at age 29.
"That illness is one thing all the money I have can't cure," she said.
Spade says her life style has not changed much since the lottery. She still works as a bartender but no longer has to worry about the size of the tips she gets. Under the rules of the lottery, she will continue to receive $50,000 a year for 16 years.
Now that her life is more stable, Spade is considering returning to school for a master's degree, perhaps in psychology.
The lottery "opened the door for me to be more positive," she said. "Life is difficult to begin with, and the money took some of that away. I'm just so grateful that it happened. One good thing has led to another."