KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — It can be extremely difficult to overcome an addiction, to commit your entire being to recovery and rehabilitation. But that is exactly what Knoxville man Michael Burlison did when he found himself at the bottom.
He was not alone on his journey to sobriety.
"God gave me a love and a passion for music since before I can remember," Burlison said.
Now, when Burlison performs, he performs for God, but not long ago he was playing shows for crack.
Burlison said he was exposed to drugs and alcohol at a young age.
"I started getting high and drinking by choice when I was 14 in high school and my dad was feeding me beer on his lap when I was 5," Burlison explained.
By the time he was 22, his music career was blossoming in Atlanta. He made the move to Hollywood and was thriving, working at two recording studios.
"I was living the dream that musicians and recording engineers dream of and it just fell in my lap, and I absolutely trashed it," he said.
His casual drug use had turned into full-fledged addiction.
"Just making money and discovered crack, and it just took over. And I went from having those two jobs in a six-month span to being a homeless crack addict on the streets of Hollywood," Burlison said.
He moved back to Atlanta, but it only got worse.
"It got to the point where I disappeared for a year, family had no idea where I was, either sleeping on a concrete slab, sleeping in a car or under the highway, doing the whole dumpster diving for food," he said.
He would play a show, make some money and then disappear on a crack binge for a week straight.
The cycle kept repeating itself, the darkness getting darker by the day.
"Other people's feelings, other people's needs, they carried no weight, no effect on me at all," said Burlison. "I was at the point where I was living in a house with no doors on the back, I'd sold those, no wire in the back of the house, I'd sold that."
He was faced with a choice: get clean or go to jail.
That was when he chose the right path.
His sister encouraged him to move to Knoxville and enter a treatment program at KARM.
And then came a pivotal moment.
"The day I woke up, my addictions were gone, no cravings for alcohol or crack, no withdrawals, just gone, just done," said Burlison.
He attributes it all to God.
"I felt him pull me up out of that chair and I felt his arms around me and he said this, he said, 'Michael, if you will stay with me in my word and continue to walk with me you will never want to go back to that place ever again'."
While Burlison once played for fame and glory, now he plays for the glory of God.
"I had somebody ask me one time why I thought God decided to heal me in a certain way. And my response was to reveal His glory. That's it," he said.
Michael is now 10 years sober and has three jobs, one at Fellowship Church Knoxville.
He also gives back and volunteers at KARM several days a week.
For more on KARM's addiction treatment program, go to https://karm.org/