Vulnerability & patience: Parker’s recovery story

Photo of Sioux Falls coaching member Parker Stewart with his three sons

We’re celebrating 10 years of helping people overcome addiction in Sioux Falls. Parker’s story is one we’re highlighting this month. He received coaching weekly for about a year in 2017.

As a third-generation entrepreneur and father of three boys, Parker Stewart is used to going full speed. When it came to his addiction recovery, he learned to slow down, practice mindfulness and remain patient.

“It's really hard because you're already so beaten down, but the perseverance and patience that's needed for success really comes in the form of humility and grace,” he said. “Slow down and stay in the moment. It’s okay to embrace the hardships, the tears, the frustrations, the anger, the pain. Sharing that isn't a sign of weakness, it’s an ability to draw strength from others.”

Early in his wellness, Stewart saw a peer coach and faith-based counselor, participated in 12-step meetings and outpatient treatment, and consulted regularly with his pastor.

“I had about five or six components I was constantly utilizing to stay engaged on all fronts,” he said. “But Face It TOGETHER was the start of the journey. It was always the space where I could come back and check in.”

Stewart believes the peer-to-peer setting was an important one – it allowed him to slow down, listen to someone else’s lived experience and connect on a deep, personal level.

He said his peer coach, Joe Tlustos, was instrumental in his wellness. He believes the peer relationship and the camaraderie it creates is unique.

“(Peer coaches) actually can relate through their own experiences, through their own struggles,” Stewart said. “That connection, it wasn’t just coach to client. It really created a lifelong impression and friendship, a mentorship.”

One of the first things that struck Stewart about Face It TOGETHER was his ability to choose a coach.

“So often in life our options are taken away and we're told, ‘This is how to do it. This is the order,’” he said. “So giving people the choice already starts to bring down defense walls. It gives the ability for a person to feel like they have some control, even when everything else is out of control in this state of chaos.”

Though he took advantage of every support possible, Stewart struggled with several challenges presented to him in early recovery, including a felony charge.

“There were all sorts of reasons to give up or quit, but there were also reasons to persevere and move forward,” he said.

Moving forward

By the time he and his cousin opened a print shop in 2012, Stewart had two DWIs on his record. His third, in 2017, was noticeably different.

“What was unique was when the (police car) lights went off, I really did have a moment of peace. It was unlike my first two,” he said. “It was almost as though God was saying, ‘Enough, it’s finished. I’m taking this from you now.’”

The next day, Stewart’s mother took him to Face It TOGETHER.

“She tried to get me help for years,” he said. “So she brought me to the doors and it changed for me, because now I had three boys that I was raising.”

A six-year process, Stewart was also going through the final stages of adopting his two oldest sons, Carter and Ashtyn, shortly before his third DWI.

Because the third charge was within 10 years of his first, Stewart was facing a felony and jail time. On his court date, he had letters from his recovery supports, including Tlustos, his pastor and counselor, along with family members and close friends.

“By the end of it, I got hit with two years over my head, 180 days jail and a $4,000 fine. And all of it was suspended and I got three years of probation,” he said. “The prosecutor was actually advocating for my suspended exposition after he had read through all the paperwork. Of course I’m bawling at that point; the emotions just overwhelmed me.”

Stewart isn’t afraid or ashamed to talk about his past. Struggling with alcohol and legal consequences allowed him to reconnect with his family and faith.

“Just because I stumbled doesn't mean I couldn't get back up. The concept of failing forward is a staple of any type of success in entrepreneurial-ism,” he said. “The only way you fail is if you don't get back up or if you don't learn.”

Embracing vulnerability

Whenever someone approaches Stewart for help with addiction, he tells them to visit Face It TOGETHER.

“This is a group of people that truly cares. And if you are looking for that connection, here's the space,” he said. “It's like getting that best friend, a trusted source that isn't going to mislead you.”

Commitment, vulnerability and transparency were key to Stewart’s success in recovery.

“Nothing really does supplement good old-fashioned hard work,” he said. “And that's what really happens in this coaching room – it's a space to vent, a space to be vulnerable, a space to share, a space to grow and rebuild.”

Stewart's story was featured in the Argus Leader and on KELOLAND Living.