16 years can feel like a lifetime. Profound changes can occur in our thoughts, beliefs, behaviors, and actions. This is most certainly true for Amatus Recovery Centers COO Michael Silberman, who has been sober since July 28th, 2005.
“I’m very lucky that it was ingrained in me that this will turn into a lifestyle change,” Silberman said. “I’ve kept in the forefront of my mind that one is too many and a thousand is never enough. The only thing I’ve done perfectly is step one. This is part of my life now. I’m happy that I can say ‘I’m Mike and I’m in recovery.’”
Before his sober date, Silberman spent close to a decade using drugs and alcohol to quiet the critical voices in his head caused by depression and anxiety. While he saw considerable success in his music career as the front man for rock group VooDoo Blue, his use went from recreational to habitual.
After Silberman was kicked out of the group, he sought treatment at Father Martin’s Ashley in Harford County, Maryland. However, he didn’t get sober, so he moved to Florida to seek a full continuum of addiction-related care. But even in Florida, Silberman struggled to get recovery to stick, and faced dire consequences because of his use.
One day while working at an Applebee’s in South Florida, Silberman overdosed in the bathroom. When co-workers found him, he was rushed to the hospital. The doctors there told him an abscess in his arm was infected with MRSA. Had it not been treated when it was, Silberman would have had his arm amputated at the shoulder.
But Silberman used again before being scholarshipped into a South Florida treatment center. There, he finally heard the message of recovery from a Behavioral Health Technician. From that point forward, Silberman has not used drugs or alcohol.
Today, Silberman and his partners–Amatus Health CEO Mark Gold, and Amatus Health President Baruch Rabahn–own and operate 18 substance use treatment centers in 7 states and DC. Amatus Recovery Centers offers the full continuum of addiction-related care. Silberman believes that if such a resource was available to him in the early 2000s, he could have achieved sobriety sooner than he did.
“If something like the Baltimore Detox Center and our continuum of care existed, things would have changed significantly for me,” he said. “There weren’t many options here. There were outpatient facilities where there wasn’t much accountability, or there was Father Martin’s. Before the ACA, you could have two treatment stays, but I used both of them by the time I was 19. If I had a full continuum available to me, I would have been more successful.”
Through 16 years of continuous sobriety, Silberman’s life has clearly been on an upward trajectory–but things have not always been easy. In early sobriety he faced many challenges, such as questioning his identity, the end of relationships, unemployment, and lack of money to put gas in his tank. Silberman remembers vividly the first time in recovery that he was able to fill his gas tank, and not simply put five or 10 dollars in it. However, the aforementioned detox center is one of Silberman’s greatest struggles.
“The process of getting that facility licensed was one of the greatest challenges of my entire life,” he said. “From isolating properties to navigating the application process and all the nuances of those struggles. When it finally happened, I cried in my office. It was one of the most triumphant wins in my life.”
Silberman’s successes in sobriety have not all been professional. Early on, he was able to mend a strained relationship with his parents. He and his wife Kelly have been married for close to nine years and have two daughters. In his personal and professional life, Silberman stresses the importance of having family members involved in a loved one’s recovery.
“One thing that has helped with prolonged recovery is family support,” he said. “I’m very grateful for my parents and my wife who have dove into the program. Never has my wife said, ‘Don’t go to that meeting, you don’t need that anymore.’ I would imagine it would be so much more difficult if I was not getting that support and love.”
Silberman believes that the stigma surrounding substance use and co-occurring mental health disorders has diminished to an extent, although there is still more work to be done.
“They go hand in hand. I would venture to say 80 percent of the clients we see have a dual diagnosis,” he said. “For myself, mental health issues run in my family. I think that the underlying issues were mental health, and the secondary issues were drugs and alcohol. For a time they worked in order to not feel that depression.”
Although many in recovery communities feel that taking medications for mental health disorders is problematic, Silberman says taking medication in early sobriety was helpful to him.
“I was on medication for the first 7 years of my recovery,” he said. “Mental health disorders and substance use disorders are a disease. It is absolutely treatable and in many instances the medications help.”
Silberman is grateful for his long-term continuous sobriety, and he knows that he is still one drink or high away from demolishing the life he’s built. In his 16 years of sobriety, he has seen many relapse.
“They’ve suffered,” he said. “Some have died, but others have lost all that they’ve worked for. I’ve seen that happen to people more successful than me. Seeing them come back to the rooms is a healthy reminder that I don’t have to do that.”
Silberman keeps not only his successes, but his former use at the forefront of his mind, to remind himself how good life is now. Though hardships will happen during a life in recovery, your worst day sober is better than your best day high.
“The most rewarding part for me has been the internal growth,” he said. “I’ve become the person I always thought I could be.”