Advocate + Author + Speaker + Coach

I woke up in the hospital to find I’d flipped my car and killed the woman I loved. I’d lost everything: Laura, our future together, the career in law I had been working toward. I was both the victim of a horrible crime and its perpetrator.”

Mark experienced intense grief, guilt, and trauma. Sometimes he wished he’d died with Laura. But he ultimately found forgiveness, love, and meaning. Mark rebuilt his life to honor Laura’s memory, started a family, and went on to become one of the nation’s top advocates for criminal justice and addiction policy reform.

Video created and produced by Church of the Nativity.

Mark L. O’Brien is a recognized expert and sought-after speaker on criminal justice and addiction. He is the Executive Director of Trauma Informed Inc, a nonprofit dedicated to raising awareness about trauma and empowering people who have experienced trauma, and founder and CEO of Springlake Solutions, where he works with nonprofits and state and local governments to advance common-sense reforms that improve public safety and health. 

He previously served as Executive Vice President of Addiction Policy Forum where he led efforts to educate the public, policymakers, families, and patients about the disease of addiction and support those grieving a substance-related loss. Mark was Baltimore City’s Director of Opioid Overdose Prevention where he managed a high-profile overdose response cited as a model by President Barack Obama. As the Director of Communications and a Senior Policy Associate at the Legal Action Center, Mark worked with advocates, members of Congress, and White House staff to reduce barriers for people with criminal records and expand access to addiction treatment for those in the criminal justice system. 

Mark is an experienced keynote speaker and has presented at Congressional briefings, conferences, and before the Executive Office of the President, American Bar Association, U.S. Interagency Reentry Council, NASA, American Constitution Society, Poynter Institute, and many others.


The common thread through all Mark’s work has been his desire to help others rebuild their lives and find redemption, prevent tragedy and honor those we’ve lost, and “make interest payments” on the debt he owes to society. His passion for criminal justice and addiction comes from his personal experience. 

Laura and Mark in an undated photo.

On February 9, 2008, after a birthday party she planned for him, Mark caused a drunk driving accident that resulted in the death of the woman he loved and planned to spend the rest of his life with.

Her family forgave him and remained a part of his life, but he was convicted of negligent manslaughter and sentenced to jail time. Using his incarceration as an opportunity to reflect on his mistakes and the need to honor Laura’s memory, Mark dedicated himself to finding purpose in his pain and loss.

While struggling with intense grief and trauma, Mark met his wife, Maria, who had recently lost her father to cancer, and the two bonded over their mutual grief. They married in 2012 and have been blessed with three children. 

Mark and Maria

Mark believes we can make our suffering more meaningful by allowing it to shape our outlook and priorities, to guide us toward greater meaning, better relationships, deeper spirituality, and a life more in line with our core values. He often says that we can let pain and grief define us; we just can’t let it defeat us. His raw honesty about his own experience and empathy for those struggling with hurt and adversity have inspired countless others to grow from trauma, shame, and grief.

To contact Mark about public speaking or media opportunities, click here.

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I coach people to find meaning and experience positive growth while living with the pain of trauma, grief, failure, and other forms of distress.

Trauma, grief, and serious adversity can leave you feeling powerless and pessimistic. But beneath the pain, research has shown they can also be the greatest catalyst for personal growth and meaning in life. 

When we experience high levels of distress, we may also find that, over time, we discover strengths we didn’t know we possessed, improve our relationships, feel a deeper appreciation of life, and live with greater meaning and purpose. 

Only you can decide what comes next in your life, but an expert guide can help you get there. Mark’s coaching strategies help people find strength, purpose, and a path forward after adversity by focusing on: 

  • Defining and attaching to your goals
  • Identifying and harnessing your strengths
  • Honoring what has been lost
  • Finding meaning and purpose
  • Restoring hope and optimism
  • Building connections
  • Cultivating resilience for the future