My Night In The Drunk Tank

BrianCubanI had gotten divorced from my first wife in January of 1990 and had been on a cocaine and alcohol binge every since. One night, after getting sufficiently sloshed on giant beers at a local bar, by about 1 a.m., I started feeling sorry for myself and decided to head home. I was flying up the Dallas North Tollway at about 75 mph. I was about one quarter of a mile from the house when I passed a state trooper. I knew immediately he had me, and sure enough the lights came on. He pulled me over within walking distance from my house. After the roadside test, he told me I was being arrested on suspicion of DWI and slapped the cuffs on me. He was a nice, older guy who even pulled over to loosen my cuffs when I told him they were cutting into my wrists. We carried on a pleasant conversation the entire trip to the Lew Sterrett jail, which is the main jail and holding facility for the city of Dallas. I asked him if he would take me back to my car when I blew under .10 (the legal limit in 1990). He laughed and said that he did not think that was going to be the case but promised if I was not booked they would get me back. He was right. I blew a .11 on the Breathalyzer. I failed to follow the legal advice I gave time and time again. Don’t blow. But like any drunk, I had convinced myself I was not drunk.

I thought being handcuffed on the side of a public highway was humiliating. It was nothing compared to the assembly line booking process. A long row of fingerprinting and abuse from the local deputy sheriff’s handling the process. Rightfully so. I had earned the abuse. It was open season. One of the deputy sheriffs leaned across the table, placed his face inches from my nose, and starting yelling for all to hear:


I agreed with him. I did not say a word. I believed that I fully deserved the abuse, and it was part of my punishment. It was no fun at all. I was put in a large holding cell that smelled of puke, urine and the stench of the non-showered. Alcoholics and drug addicts ruled the roost. Men younger than myself crying uncontrollably in shame and uncertainly of their future. They were beneath me. I was a lawyer! They were me. I was them. After twelve hours sitting on a urine stained concrete floor, I made bail and was released. I went home ashamed. My first call was to my father. I cried uncontrollably in shame and fear of the unknown consequences to come. My life was over. I vowed to him and myself that “I would never drink again” A statement I would become very familiar with as other young men came in and out of twelves step years later when I would finally begin recovery. I stayed sober for two weeks after getting out of jail. I was “cured”.

It should have been a learning experience. It was not. Like many addicts who are humiliated, repentant, and swear off drinking, drugs, or whatever else in the immediate aftermath, the further the event was removed in time, the more the humiliation subsided and the easier it was to tell myself it would never happen again and move right back into my old ways.

Perhaps it didn’t help that I ended up beating the rap. I pled not guilty. I chose to try the case, and I was lucky. The state trooper did not show up for trial, so they had to dismiss the charges. I heard through the grapevine that he had retired and did not feel like dealing with it. I remember my attorney handing me the dismissal. When I thanked him, he said to thank the district attorney for dismissing the case. I had no idea he was being tongue-in-cheek. I stuck my head in the office next to the courtroom and said, “Thank you.” They were not amused. The look in their eye told me I should have humbly stayed quiet. I high-tailed it out of the courthouse before they changed their minds. No thought about how I had gotten to that point. No thought of being in desperate need of help for an alcohol and drug problem. Just relief that I had dodged a bullet. . No hard consequences other than the few grand I gave my lawyer and getting my car out of impoundment. I got drunk and snorted cocaine to celebrate The life of an addict.

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Final Penn State/Sandusky Scandal Reflections

Brian-Cuban-8193-1The Penn State/Jerry Sandusky scandal continues to move into the rear view mirror, at least for some of us.  Penn State is apparently doing a kick-ass job of enacting change as recommended in the controversial Freeh Report.  We will go to a bowl this year if we play well enough.   The full allotment of scholarships will be restored for next season.  We will continue to provide world-class education. We will protect those who need protection.

I cannot tell a lie. When this all came down, I spoke loudly and wrote often of my personal viewpoint that there was a “moral failing” of the late Joe Paterno and others in leadership. I wrote that I was “ashamed and embarrassed” to be a Penn Stater. As I sit here today, I have re-evaluated the former as it applies to Paterno.  I stand by the latter. At that particular moment in time, I did feel that way. I, like many, called for the firing of Paterno and others in leadership. It was not based on reading grand jury testimony, presentment or any other type of legal pleading. That is simply the way I felt.  An emotional call to action.  I saw only abused children in my head.

Every time I took to social media, twitter in particular with my views, I was swarmed in more often than not, in an “uncivil” manner by the so called’ Joebots” otherwise known as my fellow alumni. I lost Penn State relationships and subsequently fired back in an un-civil manner. I was part of the uncivil problem from the “move –on” side of the field.

Fast forward to today. Here what I believe and how I feel. Not because I have read every pleading and article. I have not.  I am no expert on the scandal.  Not because I want to correct a false narrative. I really don’t. I have no emotional tie to Joe Paterno, his wins or the football program . I went to about three or four games my entire time at Penn State.  I knew who he was as head coach but that’s about it.  My general view as an alumnus is the same as its always been.  Keep moving forward. If there is inconsistency in that, so be it.

I no longer believe that Joe Paterno failed morally. That will lose me some relationships on the other side. That’s ok. It’s how I feel at this moment in time. I have now read some grand jury testimony including Paternos. I have listened to the civil and uncivil alumni. I have heard arguments and rants on both sides.   I get the issues.  I see a person, Paterno, who in my personal opinion, did exactly what he was supposed to as required by law and ironically handled it in a manner now mandated by the NCAA.

What about morally?  Is legal compliance enough?  Could he have done more? In a morally constructed world of unlimited possibilities ,of course he could.   Twenty-twenty hindsight is the great fault equalizer. It makes us all the genius.   In the real world, Jay Paterno made a great point in his book, “Paterno Legacy”.

“To do more you have to know more”

Knowledge increases the ability to empower others towards change. Could Joe have sought more knowledge?  Many say yes.  There is that 20/2o morality hindsight again.  I no longer believe it’s fair to put my moral compass and 20/20 hindsight into Joe Paterno’s head and create a new reality. He knew what he knew. That’s not a moral failing. That is real time decision making that is not always perfect when there is imperfect information. I won’t impose a fictitious framework of morality on a man I met once in my life.  I apologize to the Paterno family for my part in the “moral compass” lynch mob. It was wrong. I am the master of my compass, not his. I have no idea what I would have done. I hope I never have to find out.

What about the Paterno lawsuit against the NCAA?  Do I support it?  I will follow it but as I am not concerned with a false narrative, it’s not something I care about from an emotional standpoint.  I however, don’t begrudge the Paterno family the legal right and emotional mandate to do their best to correct the narrative to the extent they believe it has damaged them. If it was my father and I believed he had been wronged, there is no doubt in my mind I would do everything in my power to correct it. I wish the Paterno’s the best in their journey in that regard. We are all Penn State even if we disagree.

Brian Cuban ’83 Administration Of Justice



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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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