Reflections on the Recovery Leadership Summit: Supporting Freedom from Addiction

Monty Burks, MCJ, PhD, CPRS, Director of Faith-Based Initiatives for the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, wanted to share his insights and experiences at the Faces & Voices of Recovery Leadership Summit. As an advocate and dedicated professional in the recovery space and someone deeply involved in faith-based initiatives who oversees a range of recovery-centric projects in Tennessee, Burks highlighted the importance of networking and fellowship as the key takeaways from the conference.

With a deep understanding of the challenges individuals in recovery face, Burks emphasized the organization’s embodiment of freedom from addiction and other struggles. According to Burks, The Recovery Leadership Summit symbolizes “Liberation from bondage, addiction, and other challenges people in recovery encounter.” He went on to explain that Faces & Voices of Recovery serves as a beacon of hope – amplifying the voices of those in recovery and championing the freedom that comes from reclaiming one’s life. He applauded Faces & Voices’ initiatives and events for creating spaces where individuals can celebrate their progress, share their stories, and inspire others.

Acknowledging Unique Journeys

Burks recognized the uniqueness of every individual’s recovery journey and refrained from imposing his own definition of recovery onto others. He firmly believes that every recovery journey is valid and should be met with support and encouragement. Instead, he drew from his personal experiences, emphasizing the power of personal expression and individual paths to healing. By refraining from imposing a rigid definition of recovery, he empowers individuals to explore their own pathways to healing, whether through therapy, support groups, spirituality, creative outlets, or a combination of approaches. By embracing diverse narratives and perspectives, Burks highlighted the importance of honoring and respecting each person’s journey. He also asserted that the power to heal and overcome addiction lies within the individual, and their journey should be guided by their own inner wisdom and strengths.

A Platform for Sharing Stories

The conference provided a platform for individuals to share their stories and perspectives, promoting a sense of freedom and empowerment. Burks recognized the importance of giving people the opportunity to speak their truth and convey their experiences in their own words. This freedom of expression was a cornerstone of the conference, allowing attendees to connect with one another, learn from each other’s journeys, and foster a supportive and inclusive recovery community.

One standout experience Burks reflected on was learning about The Phoenix, an organization that combines fitness and wellness with recovery. As a martial arts enthusiast, he connected with their mission on a personal level. He shared, “The energy and passion of the speaker resonated with me. Witnessing their work made me realize that wellness and physical activity can greatly contribute to one’s recovery journey.”

A Forum for Fellowship

Burks recognizes the importance of fostering fellowship and community. He believes that by creating spaces for meaningful connections and sharing knowledge, those in recovery can expand their horizons and contribute to the recovery movement in powerful ways.

The Recovery Leadership Summit also opened Burks’ eyes to the wider recovery community and the diverse work being done in different parts of the country. He stated, “It helped me see things bigger than my perspective and introduced me to new friends doing amazing work that was different from what I do. It allowed me to witness the voices, the stories, and the programs that are contributing to recovery in unique ways.” Burks expressed his desire for more opportunities to interact with like-minded individuals, saying, “Sitting at the table with attorneys, philanthropists, accountants, and volunteers, and sharing experiences and ideas, was something that spoke to me. Fellowship is a crucial aspect of the recovery journey, and being able to connect with others on a personal level is what brings people together and encourages them to explore new possibilities.”

During the summit, Burks had the opportunity to connect with all levels of experience in the recovery field, which he found to be immensely valuable. He expressed, “Networking with beginners and veterans in this space was the biggest and best takeaway for me. You have to fill newcomers with the knowledge and steps to turn their beautiful ideas into reality, while also introducing them to established champions like people in the Recovery Coaching Academy built by CCAR (Connecticut Community for Addiction Recovery).” For Burks, meeting people who had gone from “0 to 100” in their recovery journey and forged a path of success was truly inspiring. He emphasized the significance of in-person interactions: “I love conferences, breakout sessions, but when you actually get to sit down and talk to someone who has accomplished remarkable things, it humanizes the process.”

The Transformative Power of Recovery

Burks’ passion for recovery and his commitment to promoting fellowship serve as an inspiration to others in the field. He firmly believes in the power of information and its ability to change lives. Burks remarked, “The power to change generations can sometimes come just from verbal information. Sharing the knowledge and experiences gained from national or global events like this summit with those starting their own journeys can provide them with the confidence and motivation to continue.”

For Burks, the Recovery Leadership Summit shed light on the importance of fellowship, personal expression, and individual paths to healing in the recovery journey. The conference organized by Faces & Voices of Recovery offered a space of freedom, celebration, and inspiration, where individuals could connect, share their stories, and contribute to a supportive and inclusive recovery community. Burks’ dedication to promoting fellowship and his commitment to the recovery movement serve as a testament to the transformative power of recovery and the value of creating spaces for meaningful connections.

Making a Positive Impact

By advocating for policies and practices that support recovery, and by providing resources for those in recovery and their families, we support sustainable recovery. And through advocacy, education and demonstrating the power and proof of long-term recovery we continue to promote a message of hope and healing. With the support of families, friends and allies, recovery community organizations and networks, Faces & Voices of Recovery is helping to make a positive impact on the lives of countless individuals and families affected by addiction. Today, over 23 million Americans are living proof of recovery.

Faces & Voices of Recovery was founded by a group of recovery advocacy pioneers who believed in a world where the shame and stigma of addiction no longer exists. They believed in a world where a lifetime of recovery was within everyone’s reach. This vision is the cornerstone of the work we do every day.

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Monty Burks

MCJ, PhD, CPRS, Director of Faith-Based Initiatives for the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services

Monty Burks serves as the Director of Faith-Based Initiatives for the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, where his role is engaging and connecting Tennessee’s faith communities to the behavioral health care system, with the goal of expanding addiction and mental health support services across the state. He also oversees the Tennessee Lifeline Peer Project, a state program aimed at reducing the stigma associated with people who suffer from addiction and the Tennessee Faith Based Community Coordinators, who seek to help congregations build their capacity to combat addiction and mental health issues in their respective community and the Tennessee Collegiate Recovery Initiatives which aim to train Recovery Allies on every campus in his state.

Burks earned his master’s degree in criminal justice from Middle Tennessee State University, his Doctorate in theology from Heritage, and wears the honorable badge of Certified Peer Recovery Specialist. Burks has more than 22 years’ experience working with the criminal justice system in various roles, including adjunct criminal justice professor at Motlow State Community College, Criminal Justice Student Research Analyst at Middle Tennessee State University, and Criminal Justice Program coordinator and adjunct professor at Tennessee State University.

Previously, Dr. Burks earned national recognition as the “Outstanding Professional of the Year” from the Southern Criminal Justice Association for helping the justice involved break down employment barriers.

In his spare time, Dr. Burks a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Black Belt and former MMA State Champion, teaches at Nashville Mixed Martial Arts Academy.