Stories of Hope: An Interview with Brian Cuban
This is part of a series featuring individuals who share their life experiences with mental health issues. Recently, I asked mental health advocate and author Brian Cuban about his history of mental health challenges and about some of his current advocacy work. Here’s our interview:
DS: Tell us about when you first started becoming aware of concerns related to your mental health. How did these issues continue to affect you before you sought treatment?
BC: The first signal that others were concerned was in 2005 when I became suicidal and was taken to Green Oaks Hospital. A friend of mine alerted my family when I emailed him asking for bullets to a gun I owned. This was my first of two trips to the facility.
The issues leading up to that moment had a major impact on my life. I was deep in substance use disorder with both cocaine and alcohol. I was also dealing with bulimia. It was all wrapped around Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD). My life revolved around getting drunk and high and doing what I needed to do in my life to be able to fund that life style.
As a lawyer, this presented problems. I eventually lost all my clients. I distanced from family and friends who cared about me and hung out only with those who lead a similar lifestyle as mine. Looking back, it was the loneliest time of my life. Family and friends wanted to help. I was not ready to be helped.
DS: What was the turning point that led you to decide to seek help?
BC: My second trip to Green Oaks Hospital was after a two-day drug and alcohol-induced blackout. I was standing in the parking lot waiting for admission and had my “ah-ha” moment. I realized there would not be a third trip because I’d be dead.
I also realized that I had reached the point where my family had reached the end of their patience. I am very close with my family and the thought of not seeing them was unbearable to me. I realized that it was time to take that first step forward into recovery.
DS: What has your treatment consisted of, and what have you found that has worked well for you?
BC: My recovery path has consisted of 12-step programs, psychiatric therapy and medication for my clinical depression and Body Dysmorphic Disorder. My destructive behaviors revolved more around BDD than a biological process (beyond having to detox). Therapies such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), exposure therapy and role playing have been very helpful to me in accepting the person I see in my reflection.
As my self-image improved over the years, my desires to engage in these behaviors decreased. It is an ongoing process. I am still in therapy. Of course, I needed to be sober to deal with these issues and 12-step has been an important part of that as well as family support.
DS: How are things going for you now? What have you learned that has helped you stay positive and healthy?
BC: I recently (April 8th) celebrated 10 years in recovery from drugs, alcohol and bulimia. I have learned during that time that whether it was alcohol or my eating disorder, I was not alone and there is a large recovery community out there willing to help people who have gone through similar experiences.
I have learned that it is ok to look in the mirror and be good with who I see. As we say in eating disorder recovery, I have learned that “I am enough.” It has been a process to learn and become comfortable with that.
I have learned how important it is to share all aspects of my journey out loud and let others know they are not alone and they are enough. Every time I get an email, text, or phone call that someone has taken that first step because of something I said or wrote, it both empowers my recovery and my desire to keep sharing. I can’t think of anything more positive than that.
DS: You’ve been very active in recent years as a mental health advocate. How have you found this new role and tell us about your involvement in those activities.
BC: I have found this new role so empowering that I left the practice of law to focus on nothing but advocacy. My recovery allowed me to come to the realization that I was a “feeler” in a profession of “thinkers.” Now I have transitioned to a community of feelers. This involves writing, speaking and making myself available on all possible forums to anyone who wants to reach out to me for support.
DS: You’ve written two books, “Shattered Image” and “The Addicted Lawyer.” Tell us a little about the key messages you have tried to convey in these books.
BC: “Shattered Image,” which I wrote in 2011, started as a self-exploration of my recovery and coming to terms with my Body Dysmorphic Disorder, body image issues and being a male with an eating disorder as well as childhood issues including bullying.
“The Addicted Lawyer” focuses primarily on my journey through a substance use disorder and how that affected me as a student in law school and as a lawyer. This is especially important in light of a recent groundbreaking study that found that one in three licensed attorneys is a problem drinker. From that standpoint we are a profession in crisis.
The Addicted Lawyer also differs from Shattered Image in that it contains not only my story but stories of redemption from others who have struggled with and recovered from alcohol, cocaine, heroin and prescription opiates.
DS: What would you like to say to encourage others who are still working on their journey of recovery?
BC: No matter how alone you think you are in your journey, you are not. There are many who care. Reach out to them. Reach out to me. Recovery is possible.
Brian Cuban is an attorney, author and recovery advocate. His first book, Shattered Image: My Triumph Over Body Dysmorphic Disorder,” chronicles his first-hand experiences living with, and recovering from, twenty-seven years of eating disorders and Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD). His second book, The Addicted Lawyer: Tales Of The Bar, Booze Blow & Redemption is already an Amazon #1 Best Seller in pre-order. Brian has spoken at conferences, non-profit events, colleges and universities across the United States and in Canada. He has appeared on talks shows such as the Katie Couric Show as well as numerous media outlets around the country. He also writes extensively on these subjects. His columns have appeared on CNN.com, Foxnews.com, The Huffington Post and in online and print newspapers around the world. You can connect with Brian via his website, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram or Twitter.
Thanks so much to Brian for his advocacy and his inspiring story of hope!
Would you like to share your story of hope? I plan to feature more personal accounts like this from time to time on my blog. If you are interested in sharing your story, please notify me via my contact page. Also, please subscribe to my blog and feel free to follow me on Twitter, “like” my Facebook page, or connect on LinkedIn. Finally, if you enjoyed this post, please share it with a friend. Thanks!