TRI-COUNTY -- "I'm so thankful that you guys have stepped up and took the role that God intended for someone else but they strayed away from it and you get to be the superhero," said Tiana Simpson to a captive audience.
When Tuesday's guest speaker Tiana Simpson presented information on addiction to the grandparents support group, the audience likely expected her to pass out pamphlets on prevention or provide them with warning signs. Instead, through tears, sharing her own testimony, muddied with the trauma of her family's addiction, she thanked them, encouraged them and then thanked them some more.
Simpson works in multiple roles for New Hope Counseling and Recovery, a community-based, professional, clinical counseling program serving the residents of Laurel and surrounding counties. And while she did highlight many of the services offered there, it was her personal testimony that captured her audience's attention.
Simpson, who grew up around the Knox/Laurel county area, said her parents didn't start out in addiction but soon after she turned 4, things changed and addiction consumed both of them.
Simpson would go to live with her grandmother who she affectionately calls "Mimi."
"She taught me what real love was, she taught me what stability was and she taught me to love school."
From the age of 5, Simpson looked forward to college knowing it would be her saving grace, but she told members of the grandparents support group Tuesday she never dreamed she'd be speaking in front of people who do for their grandchildren what her mimi did for her.
"But God takes us exactly where he wants us to be," said Simpson to a group of attentive listeners.
Simpson moves forward and paints a picture of false promise from her parents all while she, her younger brother and three cousins continue being raised and loved by their mimi.
But Mimi wasn't just taking care of five children, she was also taking care of her veteran husband who was deaf and blind. She helped Simpson and the others with homework, took them to their sporting engagements and dealt with all the mood swings of five children.
When Simpson was in middle school the only consistent and loving thing in her life died from a battle with cancer and she and her brother went back to their addicted parents.
Simpson took care of her younger brother, trying her best to shelter him from the physical and verbal abuse that often comes with addiction. At 15 and still a student-athlete, Simpson got her first job and started paying bills.
Although determined and self-sufficient, she said she was an angry teenage girl.
While in high school her parents started using Suboxone as a way to get well. Simpson said they eventually weened themselves off the drug. But with their addictive personalities and without the coping skills to handle a society that they hand't seen in years, the two became alcoholics.
Simpson then goes on to describe a day she'll never forget -- a day at the kitchen table with her parents. Simpson had made the family dinner and had prayed over the meal. She said her dad broke down in tears.
She said he made a promise that if he went 24 hours without drinking and didn't get sick, he'd never touch it again.
After 72 hours, neither her mother or her father had consumed any alcohol.
The room at the Whitley County Extension Office in Goldbug went from silence to roaring applauds, cheers and claps when Simpson shared her parents accomplishment.
And the good news only swells.
Her parents have been sober three years, go to church three times a week and share their story in multiple platforms.
"I was raised by a grandparent and what you guys do facilitates the success of people like me," Simpson said. "I wouldn't have been able to help my parents if if had not been for what my grandparents had taught me. I thank God every day for the grandparents who take care of their kids."
Sherry Paul, who helps organize the grandparents support group, said she thinks hearing Simpson's testimony greatly impacted the grandparents.
"It helps them realize that just because they may not see the entire picture now, in the end, their hard work and dedication is making a huge difference in the lives of their grandchildren," said Paul.