The thought of being buried alive is the stuff of many people’s worst nightmares.
Not for activist John Edwards. He’s on a quest.
Clean for 27 years, the Irishman battled an addiction to drugs and alcohol and has devoted his life to helping others.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than a half million people died from drug overdoses from 2000 to 2015, and 91 Americans die every day from an opioid overdose. The White House Council of Economic Advisers put the true cost of the crisis in 2015 at $504 billion on Monday, when President Donald Trump said the opioid epidemic was “ravaging” the country.
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The 62-year-old Edwards is lying in an eight-foot-by-three-foot coffin in the dirt outside River at Tampa Bay church in Florida to bring awareness to the opioid epidemic in the United States and elsewhere. It’s his third venture underground to bring awareness to those who are suffering. Edwards was invited by an old acquaintance, pastor Rodney Brown, to stage his experience on the church’s grounds.
“I’m determined to bring a message of hope,” he said from five feet under during a Facebook Live interview with the Miami Herald. “I pray to God to give me the strength and the perseverance to offer words of wisdom and affirmation from the grave.”
Having pulled this chilling stunt twice before in the United Kingdom, Edwards has this buried-alive thing down to a science. He entered his tomb Sunday morning and expects to stick it out until Tuesday.
This coffin isn’t your average pine box, however. It is larger than your average model and has a bed, air conditioning, digital devices and other life-sustaining supplies.
Edwards is open to receiving calls, texts, videos, Skype, emails and any other type of communication from those who are suffering through drug issues, or just anyone who is curious about his current situation.
The biggest question is one regarding creature comforts.
“Obviously, I get a lot of questions about how I use the toilet,” Edwards said delicately. “Well, we have two tubes. One for stuff that goes in, such as clean water, and one for stuff that goes out — the food that’s processed, I’ll put it like that.”
Edwards, who had a liver transplant as well as two bouts of cancer, prepared for his expected three-day stay by praying and fasting and getting thoroughly checked out by a doctor.
But the cramped quarters are making him a little stiff.
“Preparing mentally is a big part of doing this,” he said. “I’m determined not to be claustrophobic. It’s quite uncomfortable to be sitting in the same position for so long so I have to be really focused.”
OK, so Edwards is human, after all. He’s grabbed a few cat naps while in captivity (while he sleeps, video testimonies from his past coffin stays play) and, all in all, is doing well and staying positive. And when his legs cramp up, he retreats to a space away from the camera to stretch.
“I’m in a good mindset,” he said. “I”m determined for this to go viral and to prepare to stay as long as it takes to get the word out. I’m desperate to reach people whose lives are broken.”
The best takeaway from this whole experience is that Edwards has zero fear of death.
“I know I’m going straight to heaven,” he said. “I’ve survived 20 accidental overdoses, cancer twice and now being buried alive.”