A former addict and alcoholic told yesterday how she now runs a multi-million pound business from the same shopping precinct where she used to buy her drink and drugs.
Mum-of-two Laura Walsh, 46, blew £500,000 on drugs before turning her life around to become a successful entrepreneur with a £1million cleaning business – in just five years.
Ironically, it is based at the same location where she used to buy painkillers and alcohol when she was an addict.
Laura spent £60 a day on a cocktail of 30 pills washed down with 20 cans of lager for nearly 20 years.
Her addiction wrecked her marriage and she finally hit rock bottom in 2005 when her addiction wiped her memory of Christmas.
Her local Job Centre printed some flyers and she went door-to-door offering domestic cleaning services.
The business took off and she now employs more than 60 people at her company Advanced Cleaning UK in The Parade shopping precinct in Patchway, Bristol – and is worth over £1million.
Laura said: ‘I used to hang out here and I used to come here to get strong lager from the shop and painkillers from the doctors’ surgery.
‘People used to look down on me. My life was going nowhere. ‘I knew I had to quit or I was going to die.
‘The only thing that stopped me taking my own life were my wonderful children who are now amazed and extremely proud at how I have turned my life around.
‘It had always been my dream to set up a business but whilst I was on drugs I didn’t ever imagine it would be possible.’
Laura has now written a book about her life called ‘Ashamed’ and has given motivational talks entitled ‘Woman inspired’.
It details the way the drugs and alcohol affected her looks, leading her to have cosmetic surgery which resulted in an agonising infection and emergency surgery.
The book also describes 20 years of substance misuse and the trauma of the cot death of her baby daughter Natasha in 1987.
Laura said: ‘I wanted to be as open as possible. I thought there was no point in writing it unless I was totally honest.
‘I wanted to inspire other people. If I can give hope to somebody then it will have been worthwhile.
‘I went through a huge trauma in my life, but I came out of the other end. Not in a million years would anyone have predicted what I’d be doing now if they’d seen me back in 2005.’
Laura descended into addiction in 1987, aged 22, after she was prescribed the painkiller co-proxamol for crippling period pain.
In the same year she suffered whiplash after a minor car accident and was given a course of dihydrocodeine for the pain.
Laura became addicted and was supplementing her eight pill a day prescription with up to 20 pills on the black market.
She used false names to buy emergency over-the-counter supplies at pharmacies and dentists.
Her two children, Ricky, now 22, and Karissa, 23, would see her binge on up to 20 cans of strong lager every day.
Laura became a recluse and would sit alone for days on end in a ‘world of her own’, with Karissa finding her lying in bed in her own vomit and urine.
She was unable to comb her hair and could barely dress herself when her brother Kevin and the kids took her to get help.
Her job at a care trust was under threat because she kept failing to turn up and she got into financial trouble.
The turning point came in 2005 when she was so wasted she had no recollection of the Christmas and New Year period.
Laura visited the local job centre, where she was given a new suit and some self-designed leaflets.
She started cleaning people’s houses but soon picked up commercial contracts and started taking on her own staff.
Laura is now engaged to partner Nathan Parry and has a whole new approach to life, still visiting counselling sessions once a month which she describes as ‘more like life coaching’.
She became ‘addicted to her new business’, which now makes over £500,000 profit every year and has 62 workers. Some are former addicts like herself, who she has given a second chance.
She has said: ‘Currently, we have two very good employees who were once drug users and are now excellent members of our team. My advice to employers: don’t judge.
‘I have employed ex-heroin users, ex-drug users. I see their self esteem go up, their sense of pride, their whole attitude to life. I see their self esteem go up, their sense of pride, their whole attitude to life.’
Of her business, Laura said: ‘We are extremely good at what we do and our business is thriving.
‘I think I have the sort of personality that does things to extremes, which means I’m my own worst enemy.
‘If I was going to go low, then I’m the sort of person who would go as low as possible. And if I was going to set up a business I was always going to aim high – I’m very determined.’