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F.A.T.E. From Addict To Entrepreneur With Laurel Anne Stark And Michael G. Dash – The Journey From Alcoholic To Mental Health Advocate

Today, Laurel is a business and marketing consultant, a mental health advocate and the founder of resurgo. However, Laurel wasn’t always doing so well. It was only by facing and overcoming her addiction and unhealthy habits, was Laurel able to transform into a truly successful entrepreneur. One that is healthy in mind, body & spirit. […]

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Today, Laurel is a business and marketing consultant, a mental health advocate and the founder of resurgo. However, Laurel wasn’t always doing so well. It was only by facing and overcoming her addiction and unhealthy habits, was Laurel able to transform into a truly successful entrepreneur. One that is healthy in mind, body & spirit. Now, Laurel serves as an inspiration and mentor for others in her community. 

What Lead to Rock Bottom

Rock bottom for Laurel started on a typical Thursday evening with a glass of white wine. Three days later, she woke up. In the time she was in a drunken blackout,  she had missed appointments and angered friends. The intense feelings of shame, guilt and remorse finally led Laurel to admit that despite trying to manage it for the past two years, her relationship with alcohol wasn’t working. She describes her lowest point, “I woke up and I hated myself. I didn’t want to turn on my phone, I didn’t want to look out the window, I didn’t want to check my email, I didn’t want to answer the door. I just wanted to die.” It was an excruciatingly painful moment that led to Laurel to admit that nothing was going to change unless she did something drastic – something different than she always had. 

Of Irish-Scottish heritage, the notion of having one or two drinks and going home wasn’t really part of the culture. Since she was 14 years old, Laurel would drink to get drunk. At first, it was what all the other kids were doing. It was a good time. That’s what being young is all about right? Laurel didn’t realize she was engaging in behaviour that would lead to serious negative repercussions. The bad habits that she started as a child would eventually lead to her drinking to the point of black out. A state she actively sought in order to escape how she felt and the bad things that had happened to her. Laurel is a survivor of sexual, physical & emotional abuse. Drinking provided Laurel with a coping strategy to avoid the confusing and overwhelming feelings brought on by such trauma. Unfortunately, stuffing her feelings only made things worse. Eventually Laurel started experiencing crippling panic attacks and every-day high grade anxiety. She would often realize she had been holding her breath.

Alcohol was her favorite “drug of choice” but she also used cocaine and other drugs. While under the influence Laurel would make poor decisions, she would spend money unwisely, using funds that were supposed to go to pay her bills on alcohol. As a self-employed woman partaking in these behaviors on the weekends led to chaotic Monday mornings. Laurel would generally begin the early part of the week undoing the damage she’d done over the weekend, only to slide back into harmful behaviours as the hangover would ease. 

Laurel has always had high expectations for herself.  In her addiction, she admits she wanted people to like her, wanted to be admired and accepted. Ultimately, Laurel wanted to feel that she belonged, that she was successful and “doing it right”. Yet, no matter how much she accomplished in spite of her addiction, Laurel never felt successful, satisfied or serene. Her lifestyle couldn’t fill the void she had internally. She tried to keep her drinking under control by limiting herself to eight drinks a week. She also moved provinces and changed relationships in an effort to effectively modify her behaviour. Eventually it became clear… nothing was working to change the negative effects of her drinking.

From Getting Sober to Becoming a Healthy Entrepreneur 

After her three day blackout after Canada Day Long Weekend in 2011, Laurel finally decided to look up different options for recovery. Her first day in a 12 step fellowship was on July 3, 2011. Since that day Laurel hasn’t taken a drink or used any mind altering substances – a huge accomplishment. Laurel had finally got to the place of complete humility. She understood the only way she was going to get better was to trust the process and really commit to doing the work they discussed during the meetings. They said, “go to a meeting every day” so she did.  They said “read the literature”, so she did that too. For the first time in her life, she decided to just let go, admit that she was powerless, listen, commit and take action. This was a huge shift for Laurel, considering she had always been an independent rebel, in denial about her drinking and hated people telling her what to do.

In recovery she learned better tools for coping. She learned how to develop self-love, and started to treat her mind and body with respect. Laurel began the revelatory behaviors of sleeping when tired, eating when hungry, drinking water when thirsty and so on. Starting with the basics was a key first step for Laurel. Since she began her entrepreneurial journey seven years before getting sober, she had found it was part of the self employed culture to “work hard play hard” and “hustle and grind” – ignoring her basic needs in order to be “successful.” Instead, Laurel realized she could take care of herself while running a business.

Turning Negatives Into Positives 

According to Laurel, you’d have to be crazy to be an entrepreneur in the first place. The high risk of failure, incredible stress and difficulty inherent in creating “something from nothing” would deter any person with good risk assessment skills. That being said, with enough tenacity, success is possible. It’s an important character trait that has been a driving force in Laurel’s journey.

If something fails, Laurel simply changes her approach and tries again. She understands failure is simply part of the process. Tenacity is also a valuable trait for Laurel in doing what needs to be done to stay in recovery and take care of herself mentally, physically, spiritually and emotionally. Laurel is living proof it is possible to be a successful entrepreneur without sacrificing your mental health or physical wellbeing. 

Becoming a Mental Health Advocate

Laurel’s number one priority became her mental health. Because she had bad tendencies to be drawn to unproductive and damaging addictions, she needed to learn discipline which initially started as a new concept to her. Disciplines that keep Laurel on the path of success that could also be helpful to others include:

  • 12 step meetings
  • Meditation and prayer
  • Drinking water every day
  • Eating three meals a day
  • Therapy
  • Journaling
  • Spending time outdoors
  • Working out
  • Crying without needing to know the reason
  • Limited screen time
  • Having a close group of people in your life that to confide in and tell the truth to
  • Being self aware, staying mindful and remaining grateful

Now that Laurel has her health back, her focus is on helping her fellow female entrepreneurs. Her research shows female entrepreneurs have a higher than average risk for experiencing poor mental health. This is due to the stressors of the occupation, combined with living as a woman in our modern society. Unfortunately, that means managing gender specific threats to wellbeing such as the high rates of harassment & assault and the persistence of the pay gap, for example. These factors, among others, present additional obstacles to entrepreneurial women succeeding in their personal and work lives. Many entrepreneurial women may be relying on alcohol or other damaging habits to cope. Laurel’s advice to female entrepreneurs who are drinking a lot is to ask yourself:

Is this serving you?.. or do you get home and hate yourself? When you look at yourself in the mirror, how do you feel? If you don’t feel great, is it your drinking? Be honest about it.

Laurel Anne Stark

Connect with Laurel

As a mental health advocate, Laurel’s mission is to help female entrepreneurs feel better so they can do better. Laurel is the founder of a free Facebook support group called Female Entrepreneur Mental Health Awareness where she is present every day, asking questions and cheering her community on. Laurel is also the host of  The Feminine Reclaimed podcast where she brings tools and tips to her community by interviewing a wide range of guests. 

Laurel’s current focus is the launch of her startup. resurgo is a technology platform dedicated to better mental health for entrepreneurial women, and it’s coming late 2020. Click HERE to get sign up for updates, notified of the launch date, giveaways,  news and events and more. 

You can learn more about Laurel’s business at laurelannestark.com. You can also follow her on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube.

(We’d like to kindly thank Transcription Outsourcing, LLC out of Denver, Colorado for providing us with amazing podcast transcription services.)

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