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Legends Of The Fall(Shattered Image Excerpt #13)

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Legends Of The Fall(Shattered Image Excerpt #13)


This is the thirteenth excerpt of my book  “Shattered Image”.  Shattered Image is the story of my struggle with, and recovery from, a compulsive behavior clinically known as Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD). That struggle has included recovery from bulimia, anorexia, alcoholism, and addiction to cocaine and steroids. I also suffer from clinical depression. For decades, I engaged in self-destructive behavior with the single goal of correcting a terribly distorted sense of self-image, a self-image rooted in early life experiences.  Release date is July -August 2013  See what people are saying about Shattered Image!

September 1987, 2:00 am.  Just hit my one year anniversary in Dallas.  It still feels like 100 degrees.  The lack of breeze is stifling.  I am sweating like I have stepped out of the shower.  Not sure if it’s the humidity or the three huge lines of cocaine I just did.  Cocaine is my lunch and breakfast with tequila on the side.  Have not eaten all day. Did get in my twelve mile run. That familiar dehydration and heart palpitation feeling. Dabbling in Drunkorexia.    Feeling a little bit like a bad high. Edgy. Lockjaw. Maybe I bought some bad shit. Have to find a new dealer. Then again, maybe the next lines will be better. The rational of a developing addict.  Five Bacon, Egg And Cheese McMuffins from Mickey D’s to be scarfed down followed by a knuckle scraping, tension cleansing, purge.  It’s easier both mentally and physically to toss my binge after I’ve been drinking.  I’ve learned all the little tricks of the long time off and on bulimic.  It’s not throwing up. It’s just life.  

Four hours earlier.  Night out at the new local sports bar, Legends. A boxing ring in the middle of the room with the table’s surrounding the ring.  Televisions ringing the room. Yuppies, pool sharks and sports team groupies. Pretty waitresses dressed as ring girls carrying around the latest knockout potions. There is she. Tall, pretty, curly blond hair.  My mind starts working its developing  BDD thoughts.  You want to sit down at our table?  You’re too pretty to want anything to do with me.   Maybe it’s the eight-dollar, diamond stud, zircon earring I purchased at Target, dangling from my ear.  Waiting for her to laugh at me and tell me I’m ugly.  Memories of the freshman Penn State redhead who did the same. I feel like an idiot, but I am desperate to try anything to draw the interest to me.  I am a frightened child at twenty-six.  Trying so hard to be noticed when I can’t look at myself in the mirror.  It’s the only way I can socialize.

The alcohol and cocaine make me the person I want to be. The bulimia releases the pain when it doesn’t happen.  The image in the mirror never changes.  In this moment however, I am talkative, aggressive and confident until the coke wears off.  A conversation of lies.  To tell the truth is to face the truth about myself.  I am a eleven years old.  What is that dribbling down the side of my mouth?  The cocaine has frozen my throat muscles.  With every lie I tell,  spit either drools out of my mouth or like a projectile finds it’s way onto her arm.   I can see my reflection on the glossy marble table top. I have rabies.  “Are you ok” she asks?  Yes, , why are you asking? I don’t even know I am doing it. “Well you keep spitting on me I’m sorry, I did not realize I was doing that. 

“Do You like Billy Joel?  We should go see him in concert the next time he’s in Dallas.”  Had to get that out before the cocaine wore off.   “Here’s my number,  just please stop spitting on me”.  I sense that I may be hitting critical mass of revulsion with her.  I have McDonald’s on the brain.

Pulling up in front of my apartment.  Door opens. Stepping out of the passenger side. I am airborne!  Feet taken out from under me.  I am propelled into a full somersault.  A death grip on my McDonald’s bag.  Boom! Slamming back down on the windshield of the car that hit me  with the bone jarring force.  What the hell happened?  Where did this car come from? The windshield shatters like I am looking into a mirror.  It  releases from its frame and drops into the vehicle.  I never saw it coming.  I never looked up. I have a McMuffin in my mouth.  My buddy is driving on down the road, oblivious to my street acrobatics.  I roll off the car and into the street face up.   A male is now standing over me.  He is screaming at me. I am laughing.  My  sweat drenched, bar smelling, white polo shirt is soaked in blood.  The blue horse is now red.  A female  is now screaming at  me. “YOU WALKED IN FRONT OF US!  CALL THE POLICE!  I am still laughing at my airborne somersault.  Maybe it’s the cocaine.  GET IN THE CAR BITCH!”  They are gone.

I am still laying in the street amid the broken windshield glass.  Where are my Egg McMuffins?.    A  lot of blood coming from somewhere.  Into the apartment  Lots of cuts and bruises.  Some cocaine left in my pocket. No biggie. Still have my McMuffins.  Shower, change, sniff, shot, binge,  puke. Just another night in Dallas Texas.  Add in three broken ribs.  Another line.  Calling the blonde.  She gave me a number for a local pizza joint.  Next.

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Drunk Drugged And Crazy (Shattered Image Book Excerpt #6)

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Drunk Drugged And Crazy (Shattered Image Book Excerpt #6)

CUBAN_BRIAN 003 4x6 72dpi fileThis is the sixth excerpt of my book  “Shattered Image”.  Shattered Image is the story of my struggle with, and recovery from, a compulsive behavior clinically known as Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD). That struggle has included recovery from bulimia, anorexia, alcoholism, and addiction to cocaine and steroids. I also suffer from clinical depression. For decades, I engaged in self-destructive behavior with the single goal of correcting a terribly distorted sense of self-image, a self-image rooted in early life experiences.  Release date is July -August 2013  See what people are saying about Shattered Image!

“The week of the incident you had been asking me to go shoot (targets). Later in the week you called / emailed about shooting. Still no alarm bells. Then one day you asked if I could get you a few rounds of ammo and said nothing about shooting. You sounded really “out of it” very down. I tried to get you to talk about what was bothering you but you kept going back to the ammo. I realized that something was very wrong but could not get you to confirm what you were thinking. I immediately emailed Mark at three different emails, called Jeff on mobile and home numbers to tell them I thought you were suicidal. I was driving over to your place to talk to you when Jeff called me back and I expressed my concerns about your state of mind. He said he would handle it asap and got in touch with Mark and the rest you know.”-Angelo

Summer 2005.  I was roused from a Xanax, alcohol, and cocaine stupor by the sound of my younger brother Jeff,  beating the front door of my house.  I had no memory of sending emails to my older brother Mark,  intimating that I was going to kill myself. I don’t remember emailing one of my close friends to obtain bullets for the Spanish Star Single action .45 automatic he had given me as a gift a few years earlier.  At the time, I  did not remember repeatedly dry-firing the weapon into my mouth to “get comfortable” with the final act of pain.   In open view in my bedroom were the ample supply of cocaine, Xanax, and anabolic steroids lying around with a box of syringes.

I was not concerned if the police raided my house and arrested me. My career, to the extent I still had one, would be ruined.  I  just didn’t care.  I only cared about the image in my bathroom mirror, which at that moment was unbearable to look at. I was blinded by my self-loathing. The image  had controlled almost every self-destructive decision I had made since I was old enough to be self-aware of what it meant.   It has continued to morph into an illusion that has no obvious relation to the flesh and blood entity standing before it.

I did not care about many aspects of my life at that point. For someone who was suffering from low self-esteem, BDD, and paranoia, I could not rationalize the irony of my situation of not caring about my health or hygiene. The very behaviors I was practicing were actually aggravating the causes of my unhappiness and depression. The solutions I chose for solving my problems merely exacerbated the problems and caused new problems. I spent money I  did not have on an expensive wardrobe, steroids, cocaine and black market Xanax.   If I put my image of ugliness in expensive, flashy clothes and a new body, all would change for the better..  Clothes make the man, right?  Not really.  A self-confident person, comfortable with what he or she sees in the bathroom mirror every morning can be in jeans and a t-shirt and will still exude confidence that influences others. I was nothing more than the naked emperor who had none.

Because I was high or recovering from a high all the time, I was not taking care of myself physically.  I was gaining weight again. Between the steroids, drugs, alcohol, and terrible food, I had ballooned to almost 270 pounds, more than I had ever weighed.  I decided to try black market Alli, a diet drug that is now legal and sold over the counter,  One of the unpleasant side effects of Alli is an inability to control bowels. One night after taking Alli, I passed out in a Xanax stupor and defecated in my pants.  How had a lawyer putting out the illusions of prestige and confidence, put himself on the level of a Sterno bum on skid row?  Addiction and flawed self image,  does not discriminate between Skid Row and Park Avenue.

Jeff  went upstairs and saw the gun on the nightstand. He  determined that it was not loaded, and asked me what I was going to do with it. I  angrily pushed it  in his direction.  Angry that I was being forced to face the mess I had created.   I was angry, not only that Jeff was confiscating the gun, but that he was also confiscating my steroids, cocaine, and Xanax. I passed out again, and when I awoke, Mark had arrived. The two of them arranged for me to enter an in-patient psychiatric facility in Florida that had cleared a bed for me, provided I could get down there ASAP for screening. I did not push back on the arrangement, but I was angry at the prospect of leaving my home to go anywhere that was not my choice. The loss of control I had always agonized over when I looked in the mirror had become a stark reality in the worst possible scenario.

The immediate future was a trip to a local Psychiatric Hospital.   As I slowly came out of my cocaine and Xanax stupor in the hospital parking lot, I realized that I was in jeopardy of being committed as a person who was a danger to himself and others.   As I filled out the intake form while my brothers watched, I suddenly became aware of the gravity of my situation. I was embarrassed, ashamed, and felt as if I had brought a stain on the Cuban name. The realization of my depravity and my feeling of worthlessness increased my desire to kill myself. I began to think of my condition being exposed through the Dallas Morning News. I knew I would be regarded with the same disgust as Billy Carter,  “Billy Beer” guzzling brother of former President Jimmy Carter as the black sheep family member trying to bring shame on the other members of the Cuban family. I felt more ashamed than I had when I stood on the side of the North Dallas Tollway, handcuffed in a DWI arrest back in 1991. At least in that circumstance I had embarrassed myself, but I had not brought shame to the rest of my family members. At the time, the Cuban name was not widely known in Dallas, so I was regarded as another drunk who flagrantly showed disrespect for my life and the lives of others. I wish, however, that someone had scolded me at the time and tried to make me realize that I was on a collision course from which I might never return. I should have realized the extent of my condition, but I foolishly disregarded the red flag before me.

Although the suicide attempt and follow-up at Green Oaks Hospital was a really humiliating and painful experience for me, I had not yet hit rock bottom.

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The Lessons I Have Learned In 12 Step Recovery

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The Lessons I Have Learned In 12 Step Recovery

briancuban2A one-time friend of mine was  sentenced to 65 years in prison.  He was convicted of being the ring-leader of a notorious Dallas burglary ring known as “The Uptown Burglars“.  During my partying days, I hung out with him on a regular basis.  He was fun to be around. He was a good looking guy.  He was popular with the ladies. Our common bond was drinking, drugs and debauchery.  Drug addiction played a major role in his free-fall to prison life.  His demise has caused me to reflect on the various directions my life could have very well taken had I not taken control.

It was just over  two years ago  that I took control of my life’s direction. I did not want to end up like Damon West and many others  like him on the Dallas, party scene.  I became a member  of one of the most difficult and at the same time easiest groups to become a member of. I t is a very exclusive club of people who all share one common goal and for the purposes of this club this is all we talk about and all we care about. It is a club that changed the direction of my life, clarified my life and probably saved my life.

Why is it the most difficult club to get into? Because you have to have a desire to stop drinking. Why is it the easiest to get into to? Because the only requirement for membership is a simple desire to stop drinking. Quite the paradox.

Ironically if you would have asked me 2  years ago if I would ever become a member of this club, I would have looked at you like you were from Mars.  I was not homeless. I didn’t live under a bridge. I had a job and my family loved me. T o be a member of this club, I had always thought you had to be a homeless, unemployed, crack smoking bum pan handling people for money at the local intersection.

Along with all this, I loved to go out with my buddies. I would tell you what bar or club was the place to be on any night of the week. I would go out at least 3 times a week. This meant I was drinking at least three times a week. This never seemed like any big deal to me because all my buddies were doing the same thing.  I was having a great time.  Never had to wait in line anywhere.  Never had to stand anywhere.  Everyone wanted to buy me drinks.  Why shouldn’t I always have a drink in my hand?

There was no one to tell me that going out drinking that many times and sometimes more a week is not a good thing no matter how hold you are or how you slice it. Then again, why should anyone have to tell me this?  I am a grown man right?  Frankly, if I looked at all the stupid decisions I have made in my life, 80 percent of them started with one of those nights out.

Again, its seemed no big deal to me because everyone I hung out with was doing the same thing. Completely socially acceptable in my book as long as I never strayed from those circles.

Was I an alcoholic?   Well if I was than all my buddies where as well.  I knew that wasn’t possible so it was all good.  In further rationalization, I noted to myself that I had not been convicted of DWI, never been to rehab, was employed, nice home etc. I had only changed my phone number 5 times in the previous year, to rid myself of drunken short-term relationships.   When I had to, I simply adjusted my moral plane to account for all drunken embarrassing acts and mouth openings so that was all good. I never drove drunk which to me was the primary indicator of an alcoholic. I either had a driver or took a cab. Of course this just allowed me to party even harder when I went out since I knew I was not driving. The logic of a true attorney.

So what traumatic event happened that caused me to finally walk through those 12 Step doors? I had a blackout. I went out for one of my normal partying sessions and the next thing I knew it was a day later. Could not remember one thing that happened. The first blackout I had ever had. Scary as shit to not remember and have people tell you what an idiot you were.  I knew other people who had alcohol blackouts and I always thought they were funny as shit.  When it happens to you and the  “what ifs” start running through your mind, it loses its humor instantly.

That blackout turned out to  the best thing that has ever happened to me in my life.

If I had not blacked out that weekend in April two  years ago, I would probably still be going out every night of the week, taking days to recover, not getting work done(I was lucky as shit that my brother was my boss), and basically standing still in time with no forward movement in any aspect of my life. I wont even address the “what ifs” that are a lot worse.

That blackout gave me the “moment of clarity” I needed to determine that enough was enough. It was time to live instead of exist.

I found out when and where the local  12-step meetings was. I walked to the front door, knowing I may be recognized, embarrassed and scared. I walked in. I was recognized, embarrassed and scared.

I was recognized as someone who wanted to take control of his life and welcomed with a hug like I had been coming for years. I sat through the first meeting and listened to people just like me talk about their stories. They talked about lows lower than I could ever imagine. Many had lost everything. Many who had lost everything had started just like I did. Just out having a good time. A good time night out ending with wiping out a family while driving drunk….They talked about prison, being homeless, losing family, losing self, losing everything. Many also seemed like your normal successful people who you never would guess in million years. Many came from alcoholic families. Many like me, had no history at all in their family.  Alcoholism is an equal opportunity disease.

They also talked about highs from sobriety that I didn’t think I would ever see. Great changes in their lives. People who had not taken a drink in 30 and 40 years and loving life.  Believe me, when you are sitting at day one that seems like pipe dream. There were lawyers, doctors, salespeople, engineers, actors, college students, high school students. Every group was represented.  Everyone had their own story. Everyone had the same goal. To stop drinking and/or stop doing drugs.

That first meeting I was given what is called a “desire chip” It is an 12-step coin that is an outward sign of an inward desire to stay sober for 24 hrs. It was suggested that I go to 90 meetings in 90 days so I did that as well. Sometimes I went to two meetings a day.

Stopping drinking was not the most difficult thing I had never done.  Not by a long shot.  It was the easy part. What was the hard part? The hard part was to acknowledge that if I wanted to stay sober I would have to make a 180 degree turn in my lifestyle. This meant acknowledging that if my party buddies were also not making that change, something had to give. It is always easier to take the path of least resistance and stay part of the group to avoid change. The path of the most resistance is to break ties with that and move in a different direction.

No one wants to be alone. Everyone wants to be part of a peer group. Everyone wants to be wanted. Your best buddy is not going to be your best buddy anymore if you don’t go out and get drunk with them.  Your true friends will always be there and do you really want the ones who base your friendship on your ability to party like a rock star?

Making that change was ten thousand times harder than not taking a drink. It was hard until I saw that 90 percent of the world didn’t live like that anyways. I  didn’t know that because I only hung out with the ones who did live that way.  I survived.  The true friends stayed my friends.

The rest continued on without me. They continued on to the tune of one drug related suicide and overdose in the 2 year since I quit drinking. J

I will be honest here. There are a lot of things about the 12-step philosophy that I have not bought into.  I have learned however that taking one day at a time and never forgetting what got me in there is a good thing to do.   I wake up every morning thinking about the day I am in and not what disaster may occur tomorrow.  Nine times out of ten when tomorrow comes it is not near the disaster that it looked today and so what if it is. People who have never taken a drink deal with problems and tragedy all the time and they manage.

Maybe it is the attorney in me, but I question everything. Have to know the background, research etc. That is tough in 12-Step because so much of it is based on simple faith in the program.  2 years later I am still full of questions but I am also sober, happy and productive in my life.   in 2 years of sobriety I have accomplished more in my personally and professionally than I did the previous 9 years of drink, drugs and debauchery.

I Still have a long way to go but its a good start.

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Attack Of The Alkazombies

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Attack Of The Alkazombies

cult1When I was about 6 months into the Alcoholics Anonymous program, one of the old timers pulled me aside.  He said, “Brian you really need to say you believe in god in the meetings“. I told him I was not comfortable with that as I was not sure how I felt on the subject.   He said “Brian, it does not matter. You have to just say it so everyone else in the group will feel better about it and you” I was not sure if I was in a fluid recovery program or being indoctrinated into a cult.   While I never went back to that particular meeting I was mindful of the fact that his beliefs were his alone and not those of the group.  I call this type of A.A member an “Alkazombie“.   A person who has been so “cultified” in his/her approach to A.A.  as to be almost oblivious to the real world around him/her.  The person spend all of his time attempting to “bite” new A.A members and turn them into Alkazombies.  I made sure he did not bite me.  That being said there are people who have reached such terrible lows and are so desperate for change that they need to become Alkazombies to survive.  I have no issue with that.  I do take issue which the philosophy that order to become a member of A.A and stay in a particular chapter you must become an Alkazombie.  That is a cult.  Here is another example of a Alkazombie.  This is a comment I received to my article, Is God An Alcoholic:

“Cuban, Its pretty simple you arrogant ass…   You are not alcoholic, give it up….  I don’t know why you feel you must state that you aren’t spiritual, your arrogance and complete lack of consideration for what happens to alcoholics who read your blog make that completely obvious…

This guy’s point is that anyone in AA and not doing it his way or the “Big Book” AA way should be “expelled”.    An example of someone who has embraced the cult aspects of A.A.   He is a classic Alkazombie.

Female Alkazombies

Female Alkazombies

Does the AA philosophy encourage  Alkazombies and “cult- like behavior” in its thousands of chapters?  Perhaps the personality makeup of the specific chapter can cause the group to function like a cult.  I believe  that it is the very rare exception rather than the rule.  One of darker examples of how an AA chapter can lose its way and take on the status of a cult is illustrated in an article about an AA chapter in Washington D.C . The members of this chapter of AA encouraged younger female members to have sex with older male members. They encouraged members in to discontinue all ties with anyone who was not a member of the chapter.  When these allegations were made public, this group was disbanded as an AA sanctioned group. While this is the exception rather than the rule, with thousands of A.A chapters world wide, it would be naive to assume it is the only exception.

Is AA as an organization a cult?  As far as the traditional structure of a cult the answer would have to be no.  AA as an organization has no central authority.  No one is handing down edits and rules top down.  AA in fact other than requiring a person to have a desire to stop drinking to attend closed meetings for the most part has very few rules, only suggestions. Unfortunately Alkazombies  often try to enforce suggestions as formal rules of behavior scaring new members away.  The seminal book on this subject is AA: Cult or Cure by Charles Bufe.  He outlines  a litany of conditions as a whole in his opinion qualify AA as a cult. I am not going to debate his criteria. Words are like statistics—you form your opinion, then you make them fit the point you want to make.  I could take Bufe’s points and make a good argument that the Boy Scouts of America is a cult .

Any time you have people coming together in a group  you are going to have formal and informal criteria for membership even at the lowest level. You are going to have a common purpose. You are going to have strong personalities and weak personalities. You are going to have strong personalities that overwhelm and dominate weaker personalities. You are going to have weaker personalities who have to adopt the essence of the stronger ones to excel in the group. Does that happen in AA ?  Of course it does.  Does that happen in the Boy Scouts?  Sure it does.  Did that happen in my law school study group?  You bet.  Those attributes do not transform each of the aforementioned organizations into a cult.  They are simply the attributes of group dynamics. These personality issues however can be much more pronounced in self-help groups like AA.  No one is walking into an AA meeting because they are at a high point in their life.

When I walked into AA I was defeated.  I was  weak. I had lost my sense of self, self-respect, respect of my family. I was vulnerable.  I was naturally more open to suggestion that would put me on a new track of self-respect and sobriety.  In my cases while I did not take them all, the suggestions were for the most part healthy and in line with AA philosophy.  If I had walked into the Washington D.C chapter?  Who knows where I would be.  The point is that in groups without checks and balances this type of environment lends itself to the danger of domination by strong personalities with amoral motives .  These checks and balances are the members themselves who are different, diverse, and compassionate, looking out for each other and not trying to reform each other.  Individual AA chapters will always have their share of Alkazombies who think they know what is best for all and try to bite everyone.

So, is AA a cult? I don’t think so, but since each person has to make it work for them as an individual.  I can see how some people who fail at it would take solace in viewing it that way.  Of course, those who think it is a cult would argue that I am a “cult member” and cult members never think they are in a cult.  I can also see how people with personalities that are just not compatible with a core philosophy would not succeed in AA and view it as a cult.  Is there any group out there that does not have a core philosophy?   I suspect these people  probably have issues in any group setting in which conformity to certain standards is an element of reaching a common goal.  Is there any group out there where some level of conformity is not needed to reach a common goal?   If the common goal is a good thing there is nothing wrong with embracing it.  Just watch out for the Alkazombies.  They will get you if you are not careful!

Below are two diametrically opposed videos on AA One is by Bill W., one of the founders of AA and the other is an interview with author James Stanton Peele who argues that AA is a cult. A fascinating comparison in viewpoints.

Bill W. \

    Dr. Stanton Peele

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