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Sober Stories: Brett

What led you to get sober? I know it’s often complicated.

It is complicated. The number one reason was mental health. My biological father was an alcoholic; we were estranged for decades because he was going through his own stuff. My dad’s father died by suicide on my dad’s birthday when he was young, which of course created a lot of mental health issues for my father. That impacted my life, in that I experienced some trauma through him and later through a stepfather.

I was reconnecting with my dad over the phone during the 2019 holidays, then in late February 2020 I got a call telling me he was on life support. The week my sister and I made the decision to take my dad off life support, my workplace made it mandatory to work from home. I was living alone at the time.

I had already planned to quit drinking; what helped it stick was knowing myself well enough to know that if I drank while isolated, with a job that was stressing me out, while the world was falling apart and I was grieving my dad’s death, it wouldn’t be good.

I had been in therapy for several years while still drinking; it delayed my ability to internalize the new concepts I was getting. The therapist I’m with now—who I didn’t start seeing until shortly before the pandemic—told me it would be a lot easier to recover from all the other stuff I have going on if I stopped drinking.

One of the core parts of my therapy work has been knowing that you cannot run away from feelings. It comes down to how you’re treating trauma. I think some of that’s systemic; some of it is the previous stigmatization of mental health, which thankfully is getting a lot better.

Yeah, I really appreciate the way the mental health conversation is going. Someone else I interviewed talked about having compassion for your former self, because drinking was the only tool you knew at the time. Using substances changes your brain in some cases, but I think the core of it is the trauma and self-medicating.

Yeah, absolutely, elements of your brain change. In therapy we talk about how when drinking, it’s much easier to trigger the fight-or-flight response. The part that does logical forethought and decision-making shuts down. You’re living mostly on instinct.

What would you consider your recovery program?

Right now my recovery looks like a therapist, and I’m on antidepressants and as-needed anxiety medication. I was on them prior to drinking, but those continue. The other thing that helped upfront was the medication naltrexone. It cuts off certain receptors in your brain that tell you alcohol is pleasurable. It allowed me to be more mindful of the negative aspects, which helped motivate me when I was tapering off.

Meditation is a big part of my support circle. That practice helps me be mindful when I’m having cravings, or when I don’t know why I’m upset.

There was a point where I was searching for validation from not just my therapist, and the Sober in Baltimore group helped. I also recommend the “stop drinking” subreddit. It’s a lot of the concepts you and I just talked about with being kinder to your past self—a more modern perspective on addiction recovery. When you read stories from people who have experienced horrible cravings or night sweats, but they’re talking about it on the other side of them, that’s huge.

What are some of the biggest internal changes you’ve noticed since you got sober?

Emotional regulation is huge. Distress tolerance is another big one. My distress tolerance was shit. It ruined relationships before.

I’m going to note that it’s not perfect; even in sobriety I have issues with that. But it’s less frequent, and the recovery time is much quicker. You catch yourself catastrophizing. The stuff that I would get caught up in until I was so upset, I didn’t know what to do besides drink it away.

And believe it was truth, not just what your brain is coming up with.

Yeah, “This is just the facts.” I think Demi Lovato said it best when she said that she’s California Sober, but that doesn’t mean the growing part is over. The growing part is never over.

That’s really hopeful to me. It feels more hopeful than, you get to a certain amount of time sober and you’ve figured it all out.

Oh absolutely, one of the things we talk about in therapy is expectations and how that creates upset. I don’t think it’s real to assume I’m going to reach a destination called “happiness” and then stay there as long as no one pulls me out of it. That comes and goes.

Yeah, exactly. One time a couple years ago, my therapist pointed out that once I got the thing I thought would give me ultimate happiness, the target always changed. She was like, “You have a growth mindset and it helps you in that way, but also recognize that there’s not going to be one thing that makes you happy forever.”

Yeah, growth mindset isn’t a bad thing, but if it transforms into perfectionism—or this belief that you should never stop and appreciate the good going on around you—that’s a pitfall. If I had had meltdowns and didn’t stop to think about what was different from the last time, I would have never stopped spiraling. Like, “Oh, this is just my divorce all over again.” It’s like, “No, what did you do differently this time?”

What was it like getting sober at the start of the pandemic?

That first week was so overwhelming, I kind of lost my mind. Animal Crossing had just come out, and I brought my friends together in a Facebook group. The first month I got sober, Animal Crossing was like my quarantine version of inpatient rehab. I’d have virtual therapy with my actual therapist, then check in on improving my island and see an actual friend or two come through the virtual airport to visit me.

But those first couple weeks were intense in terms of emotions, and my body was so used to drinking that not drinking was wild. I could tell my body was like, “I mean we’re repairing, but shit’s gonna be wild for a minute while we fix everything.” But it did progressively start to feel better, and the cravings for the most part dwindled.

I imagine a lot of people in recovery feel like they’ve transformed. I certainly do. Not to say I’m a totally different person per se, but I’m a version of myself I’m happier to see out here. I’ve healed and I’m still healing. I notice I’m not reactive; I’m proactive. That is where I notice growth—and it’s what keeps the fire lit for staying sober.


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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.


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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.