Brian Cuban's Successful Recovery

By Seth Ferranti 05/25/15

Mark Cuban's younger brother Brian on his addiction, recovery and dysmorphia.

Brian Cuban

“I suffer from body dysmorphic disorder,” Brian Cuban tells The Fix. “I was cycling through destructive behaviors that I thought would change the horrendous reflection I saw in the mirror. I was also bulimic and abused anabolic steroids. Cocaine gave me that few seconds of feeling good about what I saw but, of course, when the high wore off and I came down, the depression and shame was even worse.” 

Brian wrote a book, Shattered Image: My Triumph Over Body Dysmorphic Disorder, which chronicles his experiences living with, and recovering from 27 years of eating disorders, alcoholism, and drug addiction. The impact drugs had on his life also took place in the public eye, due to his older famous sibling, Mark (owner of the Dallas Mavericks, among other ventures).

“I was doing cocaine and drinking almost every night, I was doing cocaine in the bathroom of the law firm I worked at,” Brian relates. “I would miss work constantly because I was either hungover or I did illegal black market Xanax the next morning to come down off the cocaine high. I worked for my older brother Mark for a while—he threatened to drug test and fire me because I was not coming to work due to my drug abuse.”

Brian and Mark Cuban after the Dallas Mavericks championship.

“I instinctively knew for years,” Brian says of his addictions. “But living in the world I created, of addiction and other addicts, it felt safer than having to face the underlying issues driving the addiction. Of course, there were many of the ’this is my last time’ moments that most addicts have, but it really hit home after a near suicide attempt and my first trip to a psychiatric facility.”

“We became more distanced as I distanced myself from them,” Brian tells The Fix, concerning his family ties. “I would not show up to family events. I would not interact with them or their children. I did not want them to see who I was. The same with my real friends who had been around me for many years. I stopped talking to them. It was safer for me to hang out with people I had a common interest with. Cocaine. They became my only friends.” This led to three failed marriages, loss of friends, an inability to achieve at work, and nasal and heart problems for Brian.

After years of abuse and denial, Brian finally hit rock bottom. A three-day cocaine and alcohol binge that induced a blackout was it for him. Brian hit rock bottom on April 7, 2007 and decided it was time to get clean. He acted immediately. “That same day—standing in the parking lot of that same psychiatric facility, I decided that if I did not make an effort to move forward in recovery, I would probably die, or kill someone else in an accident, and lose my family. I could not let that happen. I am very close with my three brothers.” But recovery is never easy despite the best intentions.

“Recovery has had its ups and downs,” he says now. “But I also keep in mind that the important thing is to not let the downs get too low, to stay self-aware in my recovery and learn from them. To pick myself up and keep stepping forward towards recovery, even if those steps are very small. There has been a lot of therapy. I see a shrink every week. I am on anti-depressants to control both the clinical depression and the OCD component of body dysmorphic disorder. Everyone has their own opinion, but for me, anti-depressants have been very important in staying ‘on the beam’ in my recovery.”

But Brian hasn’t done it all alone. “I walked into the 12 steps (for alcohol) April 8 and it has been a huge tool in my recovery. One tool of several, but I certainly credit the peer group acceptance and non-judgmental discussion as a huge factor in saving my life and staying sober.”

“Sobriety has enabled me to evaluate and come to terms with who Brian Cuban really is,” Brian says. “I am a lawyer by trade but hated every moment of practicing law because that is not who I am. I left the practice of law and now travel the country speaking to college students about eating disorders and addiction recovery and awareness.” He is a highly sought after speaker and takes pride in making an impact.

“The thought that I could save one life in an audience or empower someone to reach out to someone else who is struggling is such a wonderful, healing, empowering feeling for me that I can no longer envision that I was meant for anything else,” Brian says. “That is who I am and want to be. That is how I define success. That is how I personally define recovery for me in addition to being clean, that's who Brian Cuban is.”

Brian and Mark Cuban after the Dallas Mavericks championship.

When asked what he would have said to his younger self, he offers: “You are not alone. Even if you don't think you are loved, there are people who love you and want to help you. Seek them out. Take that first little step into recovery. Help someone you love or a friend take that first little step into recovery. It's life changing for all.”

Brian wants everyone to know that recovery is always attainable, no matter your present circumstances. “You can be an old man like me and still get clean and achieve your dream.” He says. “But if you can, don't wait as long as I did. Embrace your future in recovery. Embrace those who need help. We all have the God-given tool of empathy. Use it. Sometimes, that is all it takes to empower someone to move forward in recovery.”

Despite his well-publicized troubles, Brian wouldn’t change his life. He likes who he is today. “While it has been important for me to make current amends with current and past loved ones and friends and family I have hurt, I do not look back on the past in regret or wishing things could have gone differently," Brian tells The Fix. “That is what I call ‘revisionist recovery’ which is a house of cards. What I went through has made me who I am today. What I went through has helped me change lives. I now am able to love. I now am able to let people love me. I would not trade that for anything."

But that doesn’t stop Brian from recognizing what went wrong. He shares his past problems in the hopes it will help someone else to avoid all the pain that he endured. “I was a very shy and overweight child. Classic middle-child syndrome,” Brian says. “The need for peer group and family acceptance was the sole driving force in my life. I've learned that the overwhelming need for acceptance in the right personality can be just as harmful as drugs themselves in driving someone to potentially destructive behaviors.” 

“I was fat-shamed at home by my mom and bullied over weight at school to the point of being psychically assaulted because a tight pair of pants looked ‘funny’ on me,” Brian says. “My guess is that this environment came together with whatever genetic predispositions I had to trigger my body dysmorphic disorder, which lead to my cocaine abuse. I want to make it clear that I don't blame my mother for what happened. Parents do not cause addiction.” Brian doesn’t blame anyone for his predicament. He just takes it on the chin.

“Genetics loads the gun, environment pulls the trigger,” Brian tells us. “That environment over a lifetime is boundless. My mother has actually been very instrumental in my recovery as she has been wiling to talk about how she was raised in repeating cycles. Recovery is never about blame. When I stopped blaming my mom from both an environment standpoint and [with the] understanding [that] addiction is biological, my recovery took a huge step. My mom and I now have a wonderful relationship.” And that is what a successful recovery comes down to, repairing relationships. Because nothing is more important than making amends, and making amends to yourself is most important of all. 

Seth Ferranti is a regular contributor to The Fix.

Please read our comment policy. - The Fix