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A Mom’s Story of Generational Addiction

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, genetics can account for about 50% of a person’s risk for addiction, while environmental factors—such as home and family—also play a role. Holly experienced both. 

Growing up, Holly’s parents didn’t hide their frequent partying and substance use. “I knew the signs that someone was going to go do something,” she says. “They would go into another room, something smelled funny, and people started to act differently. I’ve been around it my entire life.” 

Unfortunately, this was not an occasional occurrence for Holly; it became an everyday reality. While her parents fueled their addiction, Holly got her first job at 14 and took on the parental role for her youngest brother—even buying diapers and formula for him. 

But being around continuous substance use took a toll, and Holly began to use drugs, too. As an adult, she continued the generational cycle, fighting addiction as she raised her own children and navigated through a divorce. With “manipulative influences” and triggers all around her, Holly experienced a parent’s worst nightmare: losing custody of her children. She realized then she needed help. 

Holly’s rehabilitation helped her understand the negative impact of the people in her life, and she learned the importance of a support system. After years of growth, Holly finally found peace in her life with a steady job and healthy friendships. 

However, just as Holly was taking steps forward, the struggles of substance use found another member of the family: her son, Kyler. “He was skipping school, school staff smelled marijuana on him, and I got called to the office after they searched him and found empty containers that had contained marijuana,” she says. 

Kyler began treatment, and for a while, it seemed his path was on an upward slope. Holly enlisted the help of a friend, who works for YSS of Marshall County, to regain full custody of her children. “She went to bat for me,” Holly explains. “She helped me through the DHS system and fought to get my kids back.” 

But Kyler’s problems weren’t over. He relapsed after hanging out with friends who didn’t support his journey to sobriety. Holly saw him fall back down the path of addiction and knew the next step was YSS’s Residential Addiction Treatment program.

Kyler’s 99-day stay with YSS helped him finally get clean. Holly says YSS’s emphasis on family made the biggest difference and strengthened their relationship as mother and son. “Our first group therapy helped us deal with both of our addictions in the same room,” she says. “I told him I will support him and see him through his journey.” 

Family involvement is one of the things that makes YSS unique. Families are integrated into treatment through visits, family therapy, virtual parent information sessions, and the Strengthening Families Weekend, which invites family members to join youth for in-person, evidence-based skills training. YSS also provides resources and teaches parents to become nurturing caregivers through bonding, setting boundaries, and monitoring.  

“The YSS staff were great,” Holly explains. “It was real talk. They talked to me like I was a real person.” 

YSS gave Holly and Kyler a chance at a new life. As she is approaching her 12-year sobriety anniversary, Holly wants to tell her story so other families—especially those affected by the trauma of generational addiction—realize they are not alone. “Being where I was and knowing what I have gone through—I know I am more than this,” Holly says.  

For more information about YSS’s Residential Addiction Treatment program, visit yss.org/addiction.  

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