“Do you want a bump Brian? It will make you feel good”
At sixteen years old I just was offered my first line of cocaine. I had no idea what it was. I had never heard the word before. I had no idea what “ a bump “ meant. I looked at her, then over to my friend with a mixture of fear, ignorance and anticipation of this previously unknown white powder. What I did know is this. Someone had taken interest in me. After years of bullying at school and fat shaming at home, someone wanted me to be part of the group. The other powerful drug in the room. The need for acceptance. A feeling I longed for. In the mind of a fat, shy sixteen year old who saw only rejection and shame in himself, those seemed like magic words. As I reached for the rolled twenty-dollar bill handed to me, my friend grabbed my arm.
“You don’t want to do that”
“Its for grownups.”
I didn’t do it. I watched as everyone else, including my friend who was a year older than me, took their turn doing bumps. I saw the change in their demeanor. They were who I wanted to be. I was however, excluded once again. I was rejected. I was not cool enough to do that white powder that would make me feel good. I felt ashamed that I did not get to do a line of cocaine, a word I had never heard before that moment. It would be ten more years before I would ever see that white powder again.
Summer 1987. My second year in Dallas, Texas. Hanging out at a local Dallas bar on a Friday night. Trying to fit in. Still wanting that acceptance. As usual, quiet and projecting that thirteen-year-old fat little boy in the mind of every man and woman I made eye contact with. They knew who I was. I hated being there. I was not a drug addict. I was however bulimic, having descended into eating disorders as a freshman in college. I added alcohol abuse a year later and in short order, would be unable to enter any social situation without getting drunk first. All of it wrapped around untreated clinical depression and a term I had no concept of, body dysmorphic disorder.
Out of the blue, my friend asked me if I had ever done cocaine. I flashed back to Morgantown, West Virginia. Those words spoken to me ten-years earlier.
“It will make you feel good”
I wanted to feel good. I was now an adult. I took the baggie and went into a bathroom stall where I would be able to snort my first line of cocaine in my life in privacy. Within seconds, I was in heaven. I was suddenly the most handsome guy in the club. I saw a confident, chiseled image in the bathroom mirror. Mirrors had been my enemy for so many years. I had to see that person again. Within moments, I had discovered the magic trick I needed to instantly transform myself from monster to man. I now knew the secret to defeating the shame of self. Cocaine was the answer.
In my mind, despite the illegality, it was as perfectly logical choice. If cocaine would change that fat teenage-boy all the girl saw and give me the self confidence to be what I could never be sober, then it was the thing to do. It did just that, if only for a few moments. Everything changed. Those few moments I obtained over and over. That incredible high of self-confidence changed my brain process both physically and psychologically. The cycle was complete. There was no self-awareness as a person and no peer group as a balance. That is how addicts function. I had become an addict. I couldn’t stop. I had no desire to stop.
By my late twenties, cocaine became a routine part of my life, like washing my socks. I was very aware of the illegality of the substance, but like most addicts I rarely thought about the consequences. I rarely thought about the damage I was inflicting on myself or the possibility of tragically affecting the lives of others often driving both drunk and high. A DWI in 1991 was merely a blip in the guilt and momentary self-awareness that criminal legal proceedings often bring.
It’s 2005. The reasons for doing cocaine have progressed from needing to do it to feel accepted and be able to socialize on weekends to simply doing it almost every night of the week. Getting drunk was also part of the equation. The justification was that the booze equaled out the high of the blow. At one time a fairly high functioning addict, the two worlds now crashing down around me. Doing it the bathroom every morning at the law firm I worked at to get myself going after being up all night. My brain having long suppressed thoughts of illegality and consequences to my legal career as a barrier.
Showing up at work was an afterthought. Getting so bad my brother threatened to drug test me. At that point, everyone close to me knew I was an addict. Everyone but me. Black-market Xanax and Ambien were also part of the equation. Had to come down off those all- nighters. I became addicted to Ambien as well.
July 2005. I sit in the intake room of Green Oaks Psychiatric facility after putting a .45 automatic in my mouth. Thinking back to that hot summer evening in the in the bathroom doing my first “bump”. Thinking back to Morgantown West Virgina. The multiple thousands of dollars spent on cocaine. The wasted years of just surviving. The damage to my body. The “cocaine friends” who were in prison. The ones who were dead through overdosing or suicide. I am lucky that I am alive. I try hard to figure out where the fun part was. When I really “felt good” It’s not coming to me. Shit. I am a drug addict.
Brian Cuban is a an author whose best-selling book “Shattered Image: My Triumph Over Body Dysmorphic Disorder” chronicles his first-hand experiences living with, and recovering from clinical depression, twenty-seven years of eating disorders and Body Dysmorphia Disorder (BDD),drug and alcohol addiction. Brian speaks regularly about his recovery and empowering students and adults to turn their worst moments into their greatest achievement.