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“I suffer from body dysmorphic disorder,” Brian Cuban tells The Fix. “I was cycling through destructive behaviors that I thought would change the horrendous reflection I saw in the mirror. I was also bulimic and abused anabolic steroids. Cocaine gave me that few seconds of feeling good about what I saw but, of course, when the high wore off and I came down, the depression and shame was even worse.”
Brian wrote a book, Shattered Image: My Triumph Over Body Dysmorphic Disorder, which chronicles his experiences living with, and recovering from 27 years of eating disorders, alcoholism, and drug addiction. The impact drugs had on his life also took place in the public eye, due to his older famous sibling, Mark (owner of the Dallas Mavericks, among other ventures).
“I was doing cocaine and drinking almost every night, I was doing cocaine in the bathroom of the law firm I worked at,” Brian relates. “I would miss work constantly because I was either hungover or I did illegal black market Xanax the next morning to come down off the cocaine high. I worked for my older brother Mark for a while—he threatened to drug test and fire me because I was not coming to work due to my drug abuse.”
“I instinctively knew for years,” Brian says of his addictions. “But living in the world I created, of addiction and other addicts, it felt safer than having to face the underlying issues driving the addiction. Of course, there were many of the ’this is my last time’ moments that most addicts have, but it really hit home after a near suicide attempt and my first trip to a psychiatric facility.”
“We became more distanced as I distanced myself from them,” Brian tells The Fix, concerning his family ties. “I would not show up to family events. I would not interact with them or their children. I did not want them to see who I was. The same with my real friends who had been around me for many years. I stopped talking to them. It was safer for me to hang out with people I had a common interest with. Cocaine. They became my only friends.” This led to three failed marriages, loss of friends, an inability to achieve at work, and nasal and heart problems for Brian.
After years of abuse and denial, Brian finally hit rock bottom. A three-day cocaine and alcohol binge that induced a blackout was it for him. Brian hit rock bottom on April 7, 2007 and decided it was time to get clean. He acted immediately. “That same day—standing in the parking lot of that same psychiatric facility, I decided that if I did not make an effort to move forward in recovery, I would probably die, or kill someone else in an accident, and lose my family. I could not let that happen. I am very close with my three brothers.” But recovery is never easy despite the best intentions.
“Recovery has had its ups and downs,” he says now. “But I also keep in mind that the important thing is to not let the downs get too low, to stay self-aware in my recovery and learn from them. To pick myself up and keep stepping forward towards recovery, even if those steps are very small. There has been a lot of therapy. I see a shrink every week. I am on anti-depressants to control both the clinical depression and the OCD component of body dysmorphic disorder. Everyone has their own opinion, but for me, anti-depressants have been very important in staying ‘on the beam’ in my recovery.”
But Brian hasn’t done it all alone. “I walked into the 12 steps (for alcohol) April 8 and it has been a huge tool in my recovery. One tool of several, but I certainly credit the peer group acceptance and non-judgmental discussion as a huge factor in saving my life and staying sober.”
“Sobriety has enabled me to evaluate and come to terms with who Brian Cuban really is,” Brian says. “I am a lawyer by trade but hated every moment of practicing law because that is not who I am. I left the practice of law and now travel the country speaking to college students about eating disorders and addiction recovery and awareness.” He is a highly sought after speaker and takes pride in making an impact.
“The thought that I could save one life in an audience or empower someone to reach out to someone else who is struggling is such a wonderful, healing, empowering feeling for me that I can no longer envision that I was meant for anything else,” Brian says. “That is who I am and want to be. That is how I define success. That is how I personally define recovery for me in addition to being clean, that’s who Brian Cuban is.”