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Sober Stories: Angel

TW: Suicidal thoughts





What led you to enter recovery?

I had known for a long time that I was an alcoholic; I was just never ready to do anything about it. But then when alcohol wasn’t working as well as I needed it to—and I couldn’t cope with my life circumstances at the time—I added drugs. I was a nurse, so I was taking drugs that would be wasted after patients’ pain was controlled. I would give myself a shot in the leg. That was maybe a few times a week, then it became a daily thing, and then that wasn’t enough.

I couldn’t imagine going on the way I was living with the drugs—or actually, dying with the drugs. The only option I could see at the time was to kill myself. I attempted it, and that was the beginning of the bottom. I went to Sibley’s psychiatric unit, but downplayed my alcohol use and didn’t tell them about the drugs. I thought, “Maybe if they just fix my depression and give me different medications, it’ll work itself out.” I was always blaming something else so I wouldn’t have to give up alcohol or drugs.

I hit my bottom on August 23rd, 2014. I was using a lot before a friend’s wedding, then after the wedding, and then continuing at the after party. I went home with my husband at the time and went from Dr. Jekyyl to Mr. Hyde. I always had those moments, and I never knew when it could happen. I just kind of flipped out and drank some more, smoked more pot. I later learned that I had no pot in my system, so my dealer might have given me K2 or spice.

After a while, I became psychotic and then went into a catatonic state. I wound up in Sibley’s ER. Once I came out of that, a social worker was the right person to say the right thing at the right time. She said, “It’s time to stop using drugs and drinking.” That was the moment I surrendered for the first time and said, “I know.”

It took me a while after that, because I thought my only problem was drugs, not alcohol; I was like, “If I take care of this, I’ll be able to drink normally.” October 2nd, 2014 was the first time I said my name and admitted that I was an alcoholic.

Thank you for sharing that with me. So you said you were going to AA meetings; what do you consider your recovery program? That can be anything from 12-step programs to meditation, therapy—all that kind of stuff.

Yeah, I do a lot. In the beginning, I didn’t feel like I had to do everything they were suggesting, and I relapsed quite a few times for over four years. Since coming back in November 2018—I’ve been sober since then—I do everything they suggest. Or I at least give it a try, and I usually find that it works.

I typically go to at least one meeting a day. I work the steps and talk to my sponsor every day, even if it’s just a quick check-in by text. I have two sponsees. I do AA and NA. Other things I do are service, fellowship, and talking to other addicts. I pray; I meditate.

What are some of the biggest changes you noticed within yourself since you’ve been in recovery?

When I got my first service position and started participating in fellowship, that was when I noticed things changing. I started to feel less afraid of people, which was a huge thing of mine. It was a big part of why I wouldn’t do that other stuff before, because that meant I had to get close to people and that was very uncomfortable. Now I crave connection.

I still have that fear, but it’s much quieter. When it does become louder, I’m able to not let it dictate my actions. I kind of lean into that fear. That has really helped me stay sober, because I have that connection.

I also started expressing my gender the way I felt, and then after a few months I turned to my trans self. I’ve known that my whole life, but I became so good at suppressing it. It would kind of pop up at points, but I was like, “No, no, no—shut this down.” But in 2018, I looked at myself in the mirror and saw it. What I’d learned from recovery, therapy, treatment, and AA is that I had to be true to myself. If I couldn’t be my true self, I would never be happy; I would continue to live a life of pain and suffering, of lying, and I would never be able to get and stay sober.

I had another relapse after I started hormone treatment; it only lasted a couple months, but it was enough. With the hormones, I felt like myself inside and I was very comfortable with that, but the outside was not changing quick enough for me. That caused a lot of dysphoria, and I started using the alcohol and pot again to numb those feelings. It didn’t work. It was making me sick; I wasn’t enjoying it; it was painful. I felt like I was losing Angel again, and I didn’t want that to happen.

I went back into treatment—I was in detox for a week and then a treatment center for a month. On the third day at that treatment center, I started presenting as Angel, and I haven’t stopped since. I think that has been the biggest change since recovery. I’m able to be true to myself, and it’s been a monumental shift in my recovery. Not using allows me to be myself—and being myself helps me stay sober. Becoming willing to do everything, so that I don’t lose this.

Has COVID-19 impacted your recovery in any way, good or bad?

It posed its challenges. In early 2019, I moved out of the house I shared with my ex. It was becoming very toxic, and I was like, “If I stay here, I will use again.” I went into a sober living house. That was spring of 2019, and my year was up right as the pandemic was hitting our area. That was a moderately fearful time, because I’m like, “I’m not going to be living with other people anymore where I have connection all day long. I’m afraid that being alone is a high-risk situation.”

I knew that I had to do whatever I could to keep connection, so that I wouldn’t become lonely, put myself in danger, and use again. I did all the zoom meetings. A few months into it—when we realized we could go outside and do things with each other as long as we were wearing a mask and maintaining physical distance—I made sure I took advantage of opportunities to meet my friends. We’d go for walks and maybe get some food, sit in the park, and eat.

I made sure I was doing all I could to stay connected to other people. I found very quickly that it is possible. I don’t have to be alone; I don’t have to feel lonely.

Those were all my questions. Is there anything we didn’t cover that you want to add?

Whenever I’ve been sober and active in my recovery, I’ve always felt like life is really good, even with any challenges I’ve faced. I would hear people with a significant amount of time talk about, “This has been a really tough time for me,” but they didn’t drink or use any drugs. They got through it by asking for help and using the support of their network. I could never imagine, because I never kind of fell off the pink cloud.

But this year has been very challenging for me. Seeing that I can deal with my feelings through healthier coping mechanisms—and not return to alcohol or drugs—was huge. I had moments where I thought about it, but I got honest about it right away. It’s starting to feel more intuitive to pause, notice patterns, and see if I need to do things differently. And when I notice it, to not deny it. To accept it, surrender, and do the next right thing for me—which typically winds up being the next right thing for everyone else in my life.


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As we continue to grow Amatus Health, the need to stay competitive and differentiate ourselves in unique ways is crucial. Building creative approaches to reach more people will take our company to new heights. This is why I am pleased to announce that we are officially rebranding. Our new national name, TruHealing Addiction & Mental Health Treatment, will eventually replace Amatus Recovery Centers.

You may be asking, “Why are we doing this?” This new name will give us national uniformity and help brand ourselves as a whole, which will be done in phases. You will still see our existing facility names co-branded with TruHealing for the time being.

Healing is what we do. Everyone who comes through our doors is in a moment of profound struggle in their lives. We support them through a life-changing process of healing and recovery, and they leave our facilities changed. This new name is a representation of that process. As mentioned above, it also allows us to have a national brand, which will make us a recognizable name in the addiction and mental health field.

In summation, these changes present an excellent opportunity for our organization to develop our mission, vision, and purpose. I look forward to prosperous growth as we head in a new and positive direction.


Mark Signature

Mark Gold
Amatus Health

Dr. Adam Cusner, PhD is an organizational psychologist by training and has brought his decade-plus experience to the healthcare field serving as the Executive Vice President of Operations for a 22-facility portfolio of skilled nursing facilities, assisted living and independent living centers across Ohio and Arizona, with an annual revenue over $250MM. While serving in this position, Dr. Cusner brought accelerated growth to these facilities, while increasing employee retention and workflow optimization. Dr. Cusner has a proven track record in the healthcare industry of providing successful leadership through his financial acumen, strategic planning, interpersonal skills, along with his ability to build strong, effective teams.


Dr. Cusner’s credentials include a Philosophy Doctorate in Organizational Psychology (PhD) from Cleveland State University, a Master of Arts in Psychology (MA) from Boston College with an emphasis on Psychology of Work, a Bachelor of Science in Psychology (BS) from Boston University with an emphasis in Organizational Behavior in Business and is a board-certified Nursing Home Administrator (LNHA). He has published and presented research articles in the field of organizational psychology at national healthcare conferences. Dr. Cusner is completing a book on organizational psychology in the healthcare field, which is expected to be published late early summer 2022. He is also a member of the American Psychological Association (APA), has served as the APA’s Division 17 communications chair, is a member of the Society for Industrial Organizational Psychologists (SIOP), and was selected as a professional reviewer for national conference research presentations.


Dr. Cusner is an advocate for his employees and is drawn to the tie between culture and quality. His extensive strategic and operational skills have delivered a high degree of success across all department levels. Dr. Cusner facilitated the establishment of an in-house financial team to provide billing and collections, accounts payable, vendor management, along with financial reporting. This provided $1.5MM annualized savings. Further, he developed department efficiencies for: Medical Staff recruitment, service-line growth, quality and safety, corporate accountability of budgetary expectations balanced with direct reporting to investor groups.


Dr. Cusner coordinated the financial turnaround of a 300 bed CCRC (skilled nursing, assisted living and an independent living center) in Arizona, which has been epitomized as the most financially challenging state to manage CCRC facilities. Dr. Cusner also strengthened the business growth of the Ohio facilities by 12%. He was recognized by the Governor for demonstrating a “care-conscious approach” during COVID, when Dr. Cusner carefully consolidated facility residents to accommodate staff and improve clinical care. Dr. Cusner demonstrates a results-driven culture by delivering a high-quality level of care and employee engagement.

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Yaffa Atias is the Director of Special Projects at Amatus Health. Atias is a leadership professional with a decade of experience in healthcare. She holds a BA in interdisciplinary studies from Thomas Edison State College, and a Master’s in Healthcare Management with a concentration in project management from Stevenson University. She completed her graduate capstone at Mosaic Community Services, now an affiliate of Sheppard Pratt.


In her role at Amatus, Atias leads and manages interdisciplinary team projects, creates solutions for any operational gaps, and continually strives for quality improvement in all processes. Atias led the organization’s COVID-19 preparedness strategy, resulting in all facilities remaining operational, and in 600 employees being retained as staff without resigning out of fear. In her role so far, she implemented licensure for three new states.


Atias believes Amatus Health and TruHealing stand out because every employee, from corporate to center staff, has a real passion for helping people. Atias shares this passion, “My natural compass always tugged me to behavioral health. I’ve always been fascinated by the human psyche. I have also been intimately privy to those suffering from mental illness and substance use. I later understood that my experiences weren’t unique, and quickly realized how pressing the need really is to effectively prevent and address. Moreover, how life-changing proper intervention truly is.”


Atias was born in Los Angeles, California and grew up in Israel and Maryland.

Melissa McCarthy is the Vice President of Business Development at Amatus Health. With a decade of experience in the behavioral healthcare and addiction treatment industry, McCarthy is passionate about recovery. She has her finger on the pulse of marketing trends, with the end goal of helping businesses grow so they can serve more people in need.


McCarthy has worked at large enterprise recovery centers across the country spearheading business development teams. She has a wide range of experience, including transforming a third-party digital marketing and client acquisition services company into a full-continuum behavioral healthcare provider, managing several successful rebrands, and growing annual revenue fivefold.


As VP of Business Development, McCarthy leads a team of over 20 business development professionals nationwide. She manages client acquisition, coordinates in-service trainings with various referents and hospitals, and presents at conferences on addiction and mental health disorder treatment.


“Sadly, many individuals die waiting for access to life-saving behavioral healthcare services,” says McCarthy. “I am in relentless pursuit of better—better access, better care delivery and better outcomes. I consider it a privilege to work in an environment where miracles unfold daily.”


McCarthy lives in Maryland with her daughter.

Hometown: Saugus, MA


Passions & interests: The greatest passion of mine is being able to dig into the work with men in early recovery. There is nothing better than witnessing and being a part of the change. My journey in long-term recovery has taught me to value the little things in life that I am now able to do. I love to do anything that allows me to be present with my wife, family, and friends. My wife and I enjoy traveling, trying new foods, and taking long motorcycle rides with our friends. If I am not on the road working or with my wife, I am studying or playing softball.


The best part of my job is being able to show up for my team and clients; they all mean the world to me. I get to brainstorm and strategize with tons of different personalities. A lot of the team does not know, but I love learning from them. If I am not learning something about our industry or workplace, I am certainly learning how to effectively collaborate with different types of individuals.


Together, we can change the narrative and be a part of the solution to better treat those trapped in the problem.

Allison was born in Columbus, Ohio and was raised in South Florida. She graduated from the University of Florida’s College of Journalism and Communications. After college, Allison started working at the largest talent agency in the world, William Morris Endeavor. There, she learned marketing from top leaders specializing in global PR and endorsement campaigns, in both the Latin and English markets.


Through strategic public relations and creative campaign concepts, Allison has secured more than 200 national broadcast and print media placements for behavioral healthcare organizations. She brings over 15 years of marketing and PR experience, with a strong background in leading communications strategy for addiction treatment and behavioral healthcare facilities. In her role as VP of Communications, she oversees branding, public relations, social media, marketing, events, and content creation.


In her spare time, she loves cooking, boating, yoga, and traveling. She and her husband Bryan reside in Boca Raton, Florida.

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Avi Burstein is VP of Clinical Services at Amatus Health. He manages all therapeutic programming at all facilities nationwide.


Avi is originally from New York, and graduated from Ferkauf Graduate School of Psychology. He brings over 13 years of experience in the Behavioral Healthcare Industry, in both the public and private sectors. He is passionate about therapeutic communities and the fellowship they foster between patients. Through his work in LGBTQIA, urban, rural, and religiously observant populations, Avi recognizes that each patient is unique. Therefore, he strives to ensure clinical approaches, staffing, administration, and education meet the expectation of each community Amatus Health serves.


“Our work must also include ending the societal stigma surrounding such conditions by building safe and supportive networks that include clients’ families whenever possible,” Avi said. “By valuing change and owning imperfections, we can strive to be better providers and walk through the door of recovery with our clients.”

Avi Burstein is VP of Clinical Services at Amatus Health. He manages all therapeutic programming at all facilities nationwide.


Avi is originally from New York, and graduated from Ferkauf Graduate School of Psychology. He brings over 13 years of experience in the Behavioral Healthcare Industry, in both the public and private sectors. He is passionate about therapeutic communities and the fellowship they foster between patients. Through his work in LGBTQIA, urban, rural, and religiously observant populations, Avi recognizes that each patient is unique. Therefore, he strives to ensure clinical approaches, staffing, administration, and education meet the expectation of each community Amatus Health serves.


“Our work must also include ending the societal stigma surrounding such conditions by building safe and supportive networks that include clients’ families whenever possible,” Avi said. “By valuing change and owning imperfections, we can strive to be better providers and walk through the door of recovery with our clients.”

Marty Markovits is the Chief Information Officer at TruHealing. He oversees the people, processes, and technologies of the whole organization to ensure the business is running smoothly.


Markovits grew up in Brooklyn, NY (which he calls “the greatest city on Earth”) and graduated with a degree in Clinical Psychology from Queens College.


Markovits is a veteran in Information Technology within the healthcare field. He ensures that IT processes are simple, cost-effective, and secure. His expertise spans the entire healthcare domain, from billing and claims, to clinical, to Human Resources. He says, “My passion is to provide fully automated and operationally meaningful Business Intelligence analytics, with absolute data integrity.”

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Hometown: Savannah, GA


Passions & Interests: I spend my time outside of work with my wife and children and am actively involved in various community needs and causes.


The best part of my job is knowing that we are creating a safe, healthy, nonjudgmental environment where people can come and better their lives. There is nothing more satisfying than helping others learn to live again and piece their lives back together as they become strong, productive members of society.

Together, we can bring families back together and promote healing and well-being.


With over 16 years of proven executive leadership and driving company growth, Mark Gold’s momentum for success isn’t slowing down anytime soon. He serves as the CEO of Amatus Health, one of the fastest-growing, behavioral healthcare organizations in the country.

Possessing an excellent handling of clinical compliance and high performance standards, Mark established 14 CARF/JCT accredited addiction and mental health treatment centers and three ancillary healthcare businesses. Mark’s natural leadership skills as well as his creative thought process to generate new revenue strategies make him one of the most sought-after professionals in healthcare. Mark has a track record of leading organizations to outstanding ROI on overall portfolio performance. In addition, his expertise includes workforce planning, growth revenue, high client and investor satisfaction.

Aside from daily business oversight, Mark invests in his staff and helps build their professional development. His commitment to his colleagues and employees toward advancement and inclusiveness helps them achieve goals, builds connections, and provides a competitive advantage in the healthcare field.

Corporate and Charitable Leadership

Mark has been instrumental in building healthy communities and providing access and quality healthcare to underserved populations. His service in the community is a testament to his passion and selfless dedication to the cause of eradicating addictive disorders and stigma.

He launched several prevention and education programs and created the first-ever “Social Justice” scholarship fund of over $750,000.00 to help communities of color into inpatient drug treatment. Mark says, “The best part of my role is the knowledge that what we do impacts countless lives, with far-reaching effects,” he said. “It is incredibly rewarding to be part of a team that guides individuals onto a safe and accessible path to healing and recovery.”

He is a board member of Ahavas Chaim, a non-profit that offers at-risk teenagers crisis intervention and mental health support. He is also a committee member of the organizations Bonei Olam and Chai Lifeline Mid-Atlantic.

Personal and Educational Background

Mark studied Talmudic Law at Yeshiva’s Mir Yerushalayim in Israel. In Mark’s free time, he loves snowboarding, boating, and spending time with his wife and children.