“I talk about this because I know I have a platform that can save one life”
Description of the video:
[Video: Brian Cuban speaking to camera] "I was born and raised in Pittsburgh. I was shy, I was withdrawn and I internalized anything said to me and about me. I also had a difficult relationship with my mother. There was a lot of fat shaming."
[Video: Brian speaking to camera corresponding to voiceover. Photos of Brian as a child.] "I grew very depressed and began to eat more and I became a bigger Brian and a bigger Brian and as what so often happens at school, the bullying started. It was right around then that I remember starting to see nothing but this fat pig in my reflection in the mirror."
[Video: Brian Cuban speaking to camera] "So as you might imagine I was very happy to get away from Pittsburgh PA and go on to Penn State University. I was going to be this new person who would be loved, who would have friends, who would get to do all the activities that he didn't get to do in high school. But nothing changed."
[Video: Brian speaking to camera corresponding to voiceover. Photos of Brian as a and young adult.] "In my mind every kid who looked at me was seeing this fat pig and this unlovable person who would never be one of them. And in my mind the only way to get their acceptance to be one of them was to get thinner."
[Video: Brian Cuban speaking to camera] "So I transitioned into binging and purging going into my sophomore year at Penn state and I turned 21 and I began to use alcohol to quell my feelings of depression, to forget my feelings of self-loathing. That was the first time where you could say I was a quote unquote alcoholic alcohol use disorder.
[Video: Brian speaking to camera corresponding to voiceover. Photos of Brian as a and young adult and as a young child.] "I got into Pitt Law and now we're in 1983. I walked through the doors and I remember looking at all the law students and in my mind they're all looking at me and going we know you Brian, we see right through you. So that is kind of how I went through Pitt Law, just day to day, moment to moment, drinking, running, binging and purging."
[Video: Brian Cuban speaking to camera] "I took the Pennsylvania bar, miraculously passed. I moved to Dallas. My drinking escalated and I didn’t tell anyone about my issues. The summer of 1987, I discovered the one thing that for the first time in my life. I looked in the mirror and I loved who I saw. I discovered cocaine. Cocaine and alcohol took over my life."
[Video: Brian speaking to camera corresponding to voiceover. Photos of Brian as a and young adult.] "In the summer of 2005 I became so despondent that I decided to end my life by suicide. My younger brother Jeff showed up, Mark flew in from L.A., they dragged me kicking and screaming to my first of two trips to a local psychiatric hospital. I said the right things and they couldn't hold me. They take me back home. my solution not to step into recovery but to distance and isolate myself from everyone and before you knew it, I was back out there."
[Video: Brian Cuban speaking to camera] "Everything came to a head in easter weekend 2007. I had met a wonderful woman named Amanda and she goes away to visit her parents. Next thing I know it's a couple days later she's staring down at me. I'm in bed there's cocaine everywhere there's alcohol. The next day after she moved out, I walked into my psychiatrist's office who I've been lying to for two years,"
[Video: Brian speaking to camera corresponding to voiceover. Photos of Brian as a and child.] "I started opening up to him about all of the pain and just letting it out crying and sobbing and just shaking out the years of just pain and tears.
[Video: Brian Cuban speaking to camera] "to he said Brian we have to get you sober. Would you consider residential treatment? I wasn't ready for that yet. Would you consider going to 12 steps? I said I'll go to 12 step. When I first walked in there I sat down and sitting in that chair, here's what I did know. if sitting in that chair this one time would allow me to wake up the next morning, look in that mirror and love Brian without the aids of any illicit substance cocaine alcohol or anything for the first time in my life, I would sit in that chair. I continue to sit in that chair and I continue to go to those meetings."
[Video: Brian speaking to camera corresponding to voiceover. Photos of Brian as an adult.] "I know I have a platform that can save one life. I reach somebody with my message that person reached somebody else, that person reaches somebody else and that's just not me that is why so many people put their stories out there to impact one person and then hopefully that person impacts one other person that is known as a recovery movement."
[Video: Brian Cuban speaking to camera] "Recovery can happen. We are not our thoughts. When we're sitting alone in isolation and all of these negative thoughts are playing on each other there's no one, fight through those negative thoughts. Make a list of the people who love you and who you love. Reach out because that first connection can be all it takes in that first step towards a different way of life a more fulfilling life and whatever recovery means to you."
*IU's responding to the Addictions Crisis Grand Challenge appears on screen.*
Growing up, Brian Cuban was the "typical middle child."
To Brian, it appeared his two brothers made their way through adolescence with confidence and purpose. But Brian struggled, describing himself as shy, withdrawn and prone to internalizing everything. That struggle would eventually lead him to develop an eating disorder and substance abuse issues that would wreak havoc on his life.
Now almost 14 years in recovery, Brian is sharing his struggles, and his victories, as an author and public speaker, to help others dealing with substance abuse issues.
"I talk about this because I know I have a platform that can save one life," he said. "I may not even know who that person is, but if I can reach somebody with my message, then that person reaches somebody else and that person reaches somebody else and that is known as the recovery movement. That is why so many people put their stories out there, to impact one person who then hopefully impacts another person and so on."
In honor of recovery month, Brian, the brother of Indiana University graduate, Dallas Mavericks owner and entrepreneur Mark Cuban, served as the keynote speaker at the virtual Indiana Employer Opioid Summit and agreed to speak to IU about his story.
Finding his way
Brian, whom Mark Cuban described as smart, honest, caring and emotional, grew up in Pittsburgh, Penn., alongside his mother, father and his two brothers.
Naturally shy and insecure, Brian became even more so after struggling with weight issues and being “fat shamed” by his mother.
Although Brian realizes the correlation between his mother's attitude about food and his eventual struggles with body dysmorphia, eating disorders and substance abuse, he said he does not blame his family for his choices and knows that his mother had her own battles to work through.
"I understand it now, but being a tween and not understanding these things, to hear these words from my mom, I grew very depressed and began to eat more and more, and I became a bigger Brian. And then the bullying started," he recalled. "I developed a very self-deprecating sense of humor and became the sad clown as a self-defense mechanism so these kids wouldn't know how badly these taunts and words hurt me."
An attack by neighborhood kids that included taunts about Brian's weight convinced Brian that all of the bad names from the kids were true.
"It was right around then that I remember starting to see nothing but this fat pig in my reflection in the mirror," Brian said.
Feeling left out and ridiculed throughout school, Brian was excited when it was eventually time to attend college. He left Pittsburgh in the hopes of starting a new life as an undergrad at Penn State. But Brian’s insecurities traveled with him, and he eventually developed bulimia and anorexia and started exercising excessively. He also began to use alcohol to quell his depression.
Brian spent his undergraduate years binging, purging and drinking. When he heard fellow students talking about becoming a lawyer, the criminal justice major decided to follow suit, not because he necessarily wanted to become a lawyer, but because he wanted another three years of drinking, binging and purging.
Brian eventually enrolled in the University of Pittsburgh School of Law, where he continued his destructive behavior and getting by "day by day." He eventually graduated and moved in with his brothers in Dallas, where he began using cocaine.
"The summer of 1987, in a bathroom of a bar in Dallas, Texas, I discovered the one thing that allowed me, for the first time in my life, to look in the mirror and love who I saw, for the first time in my life that I could remember." Brian said. "I discovered cocaine."
As Brian’s substance use and eating disorders continued to spiral out of control, he eventually passed the Texas bar exam — after failing it twice — and became an attorney. Although he said he had some good years as an attorney, he admits he walked an ethical line and eventually lost all of his clients.
Everything caught up with Brian in the summer of 2005 when he decided he was going to end his life. A friend alerted his brothers who took a "kicking and screaming" Brian to a psychiatric facility.
"It was a dark day," Mark said. "He let Jeff and I know he was in trouble. We did what any family would do. We got behind him and did everything we could do to support him. I think it pushed us to get closer."
Not ready to get sober, Brian said the things he needed to say to keep from being hospitalized. His brothers took him home, took away his car keys and hoped he would clean up.
"My family was trying to figure it out," Brian said. "This is their first in-your-face knowledge that I'm struggling. But my solution was not to step into recovery, but to distance and isolate myself from everyone and before you knew it, I was back out there."
Brian's first step into sobriety came on Easter weekend 2007. The year prior, he met his now-wife, Amanda, who did not abuse substances and who did not know the extent of Brian’s eating disorders, substance abuse and mental illness. After leaving for a weekend, Amanda came home to find Brian surrounded by alcohol and cocaine. She moved out, and Brian decided to allow himself to get the help he needed.
"I walked into my psychiatrist's office, who I'd been lying to for two years, and I started opening up to him about all of the pain and just letting it out, crying and sobbing, and just shaking out the years of just pain and tears," he said.
Walk through recovery
Brian became involved in a 12-step program and eventually began to find self-love.
"I didn't know a lot of things, but here's what I did know. If sitting in that chair this one time would allow me to wake up the next morning, walk to the mirror in my birthday suit, look in that mirror and love Brian without the aids of any illicit substance, no cocaine, no alcohol or anything for the first time in my life, I would sit in that chair," he said. "And I continue to sit in that chair."
Brian is clear that there are many paths to recovery. For him, abstinence and 12-step meetings are what works. He also acknowledges he is fortunate to have the resources available to receive the help he needed.
"I have gone through recovery in privilege," Brian said. "Addiction may not discriminate, but recovery does because so many people in this world in underserved, underprivileged communities do not have the resources I had then and I have now," he said. "I have a brother willing to write a check, pick up the phone to put me in a residential treatment that I refused to do. I understand not everyone has that privilege."
Now sober for almost 14 years, Brian shares his story to help those struggling with substance abuse and eating disorders. He has written two books about his experience, and he travels throughout the world talking about his journey in hopes of helping others.
Brian's family is also proud of not only his recovery, but his willingness to help others.
"He fought so many battles growing up and in fighting for sobriety. I truly was surprised at how he opened himself up and shared his experiences to the betterment of others," Mark said. "He has become a thought leader who is always willing to stand up for and speak to what he believes in. I’m so proud of him."