Get to know Our Founders

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Brenda Stewart

I am blessed to be a wife, a mother, and a grandmother.  I have three children, a bonus of two stepchildren from my current marriage, and 5 wonderful grandchildren.  I have what would appear to anybody on the outside to be a normal life.  But there has been trauma throughout my entire life caused by the disease of addiction in my family.  My grandmother was addicted to painkillers in the 70s, and my sister has over 30 years in remission from alcohol addiction.  My ex-husband now has many years in remission. I did not understand substance use disorder the way I do today.

It took both my sons ending up with this disease to open my eyes to so many things I never realized before. Both sons have struggled with addiction issues since they were 16/17 years old. For the past 20 plus years, their disease has been a large part of my life and story. From seeing my older son on life support, countless hospitals and rehabs, jail and prison, and my younger son in many rehabs, jail, and ending up in drug court…Just for today, a day at a time, they are both still alive, and I’m truly grateful.

*Where there is Life, there is always Hope*

For many years I thought I was alone. My children’s addiction consumed me.  Spending money, writing contracts, arranging rehabs, and countless sleepless nights.  Jumping every time the phone rang – sure that this would be “the call” that every parent fears.  I was sure my sons were going to die.  I planned their funeral, even as far as looking at pictures I would have to use, even asking one of my sons to help me with what he wanted, songs and such for his funeral. That pissed him off, but after he got off life support, I felt the need.

As a part of this journey, my husband and I adopted two of our grandchildren, my younger sons, whom we’ve had with us since 2011.  By the grace of God, their father is in recovery/remission and is very much in their lives and co-parenting with us.

Tragically I’ve seen many of my friends lose their children. *Gone Too Soon*

My life seemed to spiral out of control until years ago when I was led to a face-to-face parent support group and a wonderful counselor.  It was the beginning of my recovery and learning to love my children who suffer from substance use disorder in a whole new way to regain peace in my own life.

As a part of my recovery, I realized that I was as sick, if not sicker, than my sons.  My addiction was not to drugs or alcohol; it was doing every insane thing imaginable as I tried to save my sons from the chaos and destruction that resulted from their addiction.  I wanted their recovery more than they did.  Everything I did to change their life seemed to fail, resulting in more misery and heartache for both my husband and me. Through a very long process, I realized that my efforts to “fix” their disease were not working, and I truly needed to figure out how to “fix” myself in all this craziness.

I have discovered that self-care is vital in handling all that comes with having children with substance use disorder.  It is a long and difficult journey to get to the place of living the serenity prayer we always recite:  to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference.  Today, I continue to work on my recovery program to live a peaceful life regardless of where my loved ones are in their journey with this disease. It’s truly a process and nothing I’ll graduate from, but now I understand they have a condition – a mental disorder – that we have traditionally called addiction.  They are my sons who suffer from that terrible brain chemistry disease called Substance Use Disorder.  I have learned to love my children for who they are, whether in active addiction or recovery, and that, for me, is a great gift of serenity and peace.

Due to this journey, my purpose has been discovered, and my passion has been ignited.  Having walked this journey, I know how hard it is to navigate. I want to give back to others what I have learned from my experiences.  Hence, we formed The Addict’s Parents United in June 2015.  If I can be a catalyst in organizing a group of parents to come together to give strength and hope to one another as we walk this difficult journey, ultimately bringing awareness and meaningful change to the perception and treatment of addiction and realizing how important it is for us as parents to reach out for the help and support we need then my passion will be fulfilled.  *This is a FAMILY disease*

Two people sitting in lawn chairs with a sign that says family life do matter.

Mark Stewart

I am currently retired after being the President and co-owner of TRANSInternational System, a family-owned transportation and logistics company founded in 1975. I attended Miami University of Ohio from 1966 to 1970, majoring in Business Psychology. I have two sons from a previous marriage, two stepsons, and one stepdaughter from my current marriage with Brenda Stewart. Of those five children, we have three who have struggled with the disease of addiction.

Different drugs of choice (heroin, methamphetamine, alcohol), but the same disease. My life has been forever altered by the presence of the disease of addiction in my family. Like every other parent who has children with SUD, my life was consumed with the fear of them dying and with trying everything in my power to facilitate or direct their recovery. Like every other parent who has children with this disease, my life spiraled out of control, with the anger, frustration, and helplessness of failed attempt after failed attempt to “fix things.” It is a long, arduous, dark journey.

Today, I feel much different than years ago, when I first started dealing with the disease in my family. It is because of so many wonderful people who have shared their experience and knowledge and have led me to the point of understanding that giving it up to God, getting out of the way, and letting happen what needs to happen to allow the addict to get to the point of wanting recovery more than wanting the high from the drug – is a much higher and deeper form of love for my child than the co-dependent behaviors that drove me crazy in the past. Today I can truly say that I love my children more than ever before, whether they are in recovery/remission or not. I hate the disease, but I love and accept my children for the beautiful person(s) they are.

Brenda (my beautiful wife) and I have walked this journey together. It has become her passion to “give back,” knowing through personal experience what chaos and “hell” dealing with addiction can be for a family. We started The Addict’s Parents United as a vehicle for both of us to give back to and support our community of parents, to help them find recovery when life, as they knew it, has been devastated by this disease.​