I am pleased to present another short excerpt from my new book, “Finding Your True Self In The Midst Of Chaos which will be published the last quarter of 2015. I hope you enjoy it. This excerpt has not been through the rigorous proofing and editing process the book will go through.
“ACT AS IF”
“Be Honest About Who You Are Flaws And All. You never know who you Will Inspire Simply By Being You”
Something that in theory sounds so easy to do. In reality, are any of us really completely honest about who we are depending on the situation? What about those of us in recovery? My eating disorders and addiction involved creating completely new identities for public consumption. I had a Ph.D in camouflaging and hiding my dysfunction from the real world. Of course, as is often the case with these things, as I sunk deeper and deeper into the dysfunctional and destructive behaviors, the harder and harder it became to maintain my false image and stay functional. The two worlds finally colliding in near tragedy with suicidal thoughts taken to action, two trips to a psychiatric facility and a deep bone deep sense of hopefulness that I would never find my true self and have to live the life and pain of a shy, bullied, body dysmorphic little boy, then teenager, then grown adult who internalized every harsh word, projected rejection at every encounter and convinced himself that he was unworthy of love and eventually living. Never really growing up and learning that we can suffer harsh words, fight through tough times and beat eating disorders, depression and addiction so they no longer define who we are.
Creating a new self-identity of course does not have to be a destructive process. It is an ever-shifting life process. At one time or another everyone tries to project out something that may not be in line with his or her true mindset. “Act As If” is not necessarily a bad thing. A well-accepted motivational concept that can propel a person forward in his/her goals. Act as if you are confident even when scared to death. Many a public speaker understands this very well. Who is not scared to death or at a minimum nervous the first time they walk out onto a stage in front of ten people, one hundred people, one thousand people. I was! A method of creating positive feelings about something you may be uncertain or less than motivated about. “Act as If” can also have negative identify consequences in the right (or wrong circumstances) An addict who maintains a double life style to maintain functionality prolonging his/her addiction. For many years, I “acted as if” I was a functional attorney to one group of people but my real identity was as a bulimic, alcoholic, cocaine addict where I was much more comfortable in my “identity”. I did not have to “act as if’ with my dealer, my cocaine buddies and my toilet as I kneeled over it. Of course I learned in recovery, that” act as if” is part of that process and often vital in the first days, weeks, months, and even years depending on the person. For those first brutal months of simply staying clean when I walked into twelve step, all I could do was “act as if” I was functional. I acted as if I was in recovery. Minute by Minute, Day by day. Meeting by Meeting. Recovery was not yet my identity. I had to act it out. “Act As If got me through while I was working on how I got where I was in intensive therapy. Working on who I was. Working on not needing to create another Brian to the masses while I got high with the minority.
In looking back on my life trajectory I can identify distinct identifies that I embraced to survive. Just survive. Like breathing. A day-to-day battle for love and acceptance to become whole. To become a Brian who was defined by environmental factors playing on genetic and
- The Acceptance Identity
- The Bulimic Identity
- The Alcoholic Identity
- The Addict Identity
- The self Harm Identity
- The Hopeless Identity
- The “Aha Moment” Identity
- The Recovery Identity
- The True Self Identity.
The first six of these identities involved artificially changing that small child, through destructive behaviors to fulfill a need for acceptance before I finally began to figure out that little boy. . A need that can be as powerful as any artificial drug in driving a person to self-destructive and otherwise dangerous and risky behaviors. That need taking on different definitions as I progressed through Life. Some of these tools being of course various types of therapy, twelve step, etc. Other tools being more self-reflective using what I call “EEVA”.
- Empathy for our own struggles and the struggles of others;
- Education to open up pathways to recovery previously unknown;
- Voice for those who for whatever reason are not able to achieve their true identity at a moment in time.
- Action Using that voice to Sharing our experience strength and hope to empower our own recovery and empower others to find their true identity
I hope you will take that sometimes difficult to read journey with me and see how I was finally able to find my true self in the midst of chaos. Maybe you can too.
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