CBS Promotes Addiction Awareness But At What Cost?


This week CBS News begins an addiction awareness campaign entitled “ 14 Days On The Wagon”. An awareness campaign designed to get people to stop drinking, smoking, doing drugs and refrain from other addictive behaviors for a two-week period in the hopes they will feel better, and see that there is a healthier lifestyle that awaits them. The basic premise is set out below:

“If people go through this two weeks, this 14 days on the wagon, and they have a hard time doing it, it should be a real eye opener,”

At first blush this seems great. Of course, the only way to “get sober” with regards to drinking or “clean” with drugs is to start with day one. A well-known twelve-step saying is “one day at a time” What about fourteen days at a time?

I spoke to quite a few people in the addiction community ranging from treatment providers to awareness advocates and recovering addicts to get various viewpoints on this initiative. Here were some of the comments that were part of a common consensus.

The initiative is well intended. If someone tries to stop for two weeks and fails, he or she will realize they have a problem and seek help and using the resources on the website begin to embrace a healthy, non addict lifestyle.

The initiative is misguided for the following reasons:

a. There can be severe health and psychological consequences to going cold turkey for two weeks without medical or psychological support.

b. It fails to distinguish between non-addicts who simply want to live a healthier lifestyle and can stop their behavior for two weeks with no problem and addicts who may need real, ground level support to get through a day let alone two weeks.

c. This initiative reinforces the idea that suffering from “substance abuse” is a choice, which negates the “chronic disease” that the AMA and knowledgeable Addiction Physicians and Psychiatrists” know this to be. In doing so, it risks increasing the shame and stigma associated with addiction if the addict is unable to complete the two weeks. He blames him or herself for the “choice”. An even deeper sense of hopeless may set in.

d. Failure in this “choice” can also cause family based shame and stigma. Family members can use their ability to stay sober in blaming the addict for his/her failure.

“I was able to stay sober why can’t you”

It promotes both the medical and psychological fallacy that fourteen days of sobriety will help an addict better understand addiction.

Awareness is great, but while the mechanics of addiction are the same, the stories are different. Stories that may include depression, co-addiction, childhood trauma, suicidal thoughts and so on. An attempt to stop drinking or doing drugs for two weeks will not address these issues and can even lay them bare to the world with no support other than a few videos on a website.

In the end, this campaign could have done so much more by doing so much less. It is far too over-reaching and attempts to “one size fits all” the complexity that is addiction.  It could have accomplished the same with a non-judgmental, three-day event without the “in your face” stigmatizing aspect. I really hope it helps some people. I really hope no one dies or sinks further into addiction because of it.



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University Of North Texas-Step By Step

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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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