How I Became A Cocaine Addict

Brian-Cuban-8193-1New Years Day 1977. Sixteen years old. Sitting at a table at the sister of a friend’s house in Morgantown, West Virginia. A pile of white powder in front of me. The question:

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”

“Why not?

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.



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Body Dysmorphia Is Not A Fashion Statement

BrianCubanTallulah Willis, daughter of actor Bruce Willis has gone public with her battle with body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) reportedly diagnosed at age thirteen. She is not the first celebrity to go public but unlike some other celebs who throw “body dysmorphia” around like a new pair of Jimmy Choos, Tallulah seem to understand what BDD is and what the ramifications are. That is not to say that people who do not get diagnosed with BDD don’t have it, but there seems to be a confusion among some with an actual DSM5 diagnosis and the normative discontent that both men and women goes through at some point in their lives. While the societal fascination with perfect body images may have certainly lowered the set point for us to all have self-image issues and hate various aspects of our body at one time or another, that in itself does not constitute body dysmorphic disorder.

Contrary to the opinions of some other celebrities such as Chelsea Handler and Sarah Michelle Gellar, every woman (or man, it affects men and women equally) does not have body dysmorphic disorder simply because he or she is experiencing some form of body dissatisfaction

Chelsea recent stated:

“I mean, people who aren’t fat think they’re fat — myself included,” she observes. “I have body dysmorphia… we all have it.”

Sarah Michelle Gellar echoed those sentiments:

“I totally have body Dysmorphic disorder, I think most women do”

Chelsea and Sarah may very well have BDD, I am not a doctor. They are however, also spreading falsehoods that trivialize a dangerous and often devastating problem. How do we know this? Studies show that BDD affects approximately 2-4 percent of the pollution men and woman equally. Not an insignificant number in the general population but certainly not “everybody”.

I have body dysmorphic disorder. I have been in treatment for it for years. Fat shaming at home and bullying over my weight played into a middle child syndrome overwhelming desire for acceptance. This caused me to see only a monstrous fat stomach when I looked in the mirror, checked myself in a store window, my car window. I cycled through practically every destructive behavior out there to change that monstrous image in the mirror that never changed no matter what I did. Twenty-seven years of anorexia the bulimia. Drug Addiction. Alcoholism, Steroid addiction, numerous failed marriages and finally becoming suicidal fortunately to be rescued by my family and finally starting recovery with the help of medication and intensive therapy.

What is the solution to this brutal and sometimes deadly disorder? That is still being sorted out. Like eating disorders, for me it was a complicated mix of psychological predisposition, childhood trauma and maybe even genetics. Efforts to understand it have only in recent years escalated with some groundbreaking research by BDD pioneers such as Dr. Katherine Phillips.

What I can tell you is that the answer is not to minimize it and treat it like a bad hair day. If you think you have it, don’t focus on the definitions of laypeople. As there was no awareness of this issue when it hit me, I was force to evaluate my own baseline behavior in making a treatment decision. Some questions I asked myself, Has my lifestyle changed for the worse? What was my quality of life? Was I engaging in in obsessive and destructive behaviors? The answer to all of those was yes and I sought help. Those are not the only questions but that’s why I don’t tell anyone else whether they have BDD. It’s a decision for a treatment professional, not a celebrity diagnosing his or her own lifestyle and behaviors-, which will probably be different from yours.

If you are answering yes to your own questions and are worried, let a qualified treatment provider help you. That’s how you get better! If you don’t really know what BDD is, ask a qualified professional who does. Otherwise, please do not use a public platform to spread misinformation and make the problem worse.

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 adults and teens to turn their worst moments into their greatest achievement.

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Eating Disorders. Who’s To Blame?

BrianCubanThe answer is no one. Current science tells us that Eating disorders are biologically based, influenced by numerous complex environmental factors coming together as they did for me to create a perfect storm of anorexia and bulimia that lasted twenty-seven years.

For many years however, it was a blame game for me. I blamed my mother for the harsh, fat shaming and other belittling words she inflicted at an already programmed, middle child syndrome personality looking for acceptance as the all self-defining persona. Acceptance from my mother. Acceptance from the kids who bullied me over my weight. Acceptance from the high school girls who I wanted to badly to connect with and go to the prom. Go on a date. Hold a hand. Get that first kiss.

When none of that happened, and I descended into eating disorders, addiction and suicidal thoughts, blame was the other easy self-medication. As I moved into recovery and slowly became self-aware of where I was and how I got there, it no longer became about blame. It became about forgiveness. When It became about education and awareness, it was clear that parents, bullies and the girls who rejected me were not the cause. It was about the tornado combination of already programmed genetic and psychological predispositions plus environment. Which one is more important than the other? We still don’t know that. A reason I recently participated in a genetic study that will explore this issue. Hopefully one day, science will identify a gene that will without question tell us who is pre-disposed to eating disorders.

Will that eliminate environmental factors? Of course not. But it will be a groundbreaking step towards treating those suffering and also determining how influential a pre-disposition is absent all other environmental factors. Until that time, it is important to maintain a balanced approach to education and awareness. Blaming home environment is not the answer. The most freeing and profound moment in my eating disorder recovery was when I stopped blaming. Denying that home environment however could be a factor in my disorders in order to deflect emotional guilt and blame is also not the answer. Acknowledging that environment matters is not blame. It understanding. Truth and truth will educate and change views. It’s not a blame game. It’s not a game at all. It’s a deadly situation. Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any psychological illness. Let’s stay balanced on facts and science when we educate. That will raise awareness. That will help save lives.

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 childhood bullying, eating disorders and Body Dysmorphia Disorder (BDD) and drug addiction. Brian speaks regularly about his recovery and empowering adults and teens to turn their worst moments into their greatest achievement.

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