For most of his adult life, Brian Cuban’s personal demons put him through hell.
The Dallas lawyer and brother of Mavericks owner Mark Cuban had an eating disorder, drug and alcohol addictions, three failed marriages and suicidal thoughts, all stemming from self-image issues that date to his childhood.
The condition he has is called body dysmorphic disorder.
“I was a mess,” Cuban says. “What body dysmorphic disorder did to me, whenever I would look in the mirror, all I saw was a fat, ugly person. So I started to engage in unhealthy behaviors to change how I felt about myself. But no matter what I tried, I still only saw a fat person in the mirror.”
It got so bad that, in 2005, Cuban contemplated suicide.
But he turned his life around two years later when he got counseling, got clean and learned not to fixate on a distorted sense of self image.
“I’m leading a productive life now,” Cuban says. “I’ve done more in the last six years of recovery than I did in the first 40-plus years of my life.”
Men speaking up
Now he has been sharing his story of suffering and recovery in the recently published Shattered Image: My Triumph Over Body Dysmorphic Disorder (Net Minds Corporation, $16.99).
He’ll be at Cabo Grande in Sundance Square (115 W. Second St. in Fort Worth) from 4 to 6 p.m. Saturday to sign copies.
“I wrote the book starting as a catharsis for me,” he says. “But I came to realize that there are so few male voices out there talking about eating disorder and self-image issues. There is a male stigma surrounding talking about these things. I felt it was time to help push the conversation forward.”
There is so little information available about these issues from a male perspective, Cuban says, that “I’ve had guys say to me, ‘I don’t believe you. I don’t believe guys get bulimia.’ That’s how in the dark some people are about it. But 10 percent of all eating disorder sufferers are male. According to the National Eating Disorders Association, 800,000 men will suffer bulimia at some point in their lives.”
But Cuban didn’t just suffer from an eating disorder.
“I also had a cocaine addiction, I had become an alcoholic and I had a steroid addiction,” he says. “It got to the point where I was putting a .45 automatic in my mouth and dry-firing it in preparation to kill myself.”
Cuban’s brothers, Mark and Jeff, intervened at that time and brought him to a psychiatric facility to avert the immediate crisis, but he continued to spiral out of control for a couple more years.
He hit rock bottom on Easter weekend 2007.
“I had met a girl, we had been dating, she had just moved in,” Cuban says. “She went away for the weekend to visit family and I went out and had a two-day drug- and alcohol-induced blackout. I did all kinds of bad things and was unfaithful to my girlfriend. And she came home and basically caught me.
“We went back to the same psychiatric facility and that’s when it hit me. One more time and I’ll never make it back. I’ll either be dead or, even worse, I’ll lose the love of my family.
“My brothers and I are very close. Family may love you unconditionally, but there are limits to their willingness to watching you destroy yourself. I knew if I kept on, they’d distance from me and I would basically lose them. That thought is what turned me around. It was my moment of clarity.”
The next day, he went to his therapist and came clean about secrets he had been keeping from everyone.
“I said, ‘Hey, doc, I’ve been lying to you. I’ve been bulimic. I’m a drug addict. I’ve been coming in here coked up. There was a near-suicide attempt that I never told you about.’ The guy I had been paying to listen to my problems and be non-judgmental, I had never told him anything because I was so ashamed. But once I got honest and started dealing with these issues, my life started getting better.”
Cuban says he has received phenomenal feedback from people who have had similar experiences.
“My hope for the book is, first and foremost, that it will start a conversation about body shame, especially for men,” he says. “I’m not treatment provider. I’m not a psychiatrist. I’m just a guy with a story. But I hope my story can let people know they’re not alone and there’s no shame in seeking help.”