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Episode 93 — Brian Cuban — The Addicted Lawyer: Tales of the Bar, Booze, Blow, and Redemption

Just because you have a famous last name doesn’t mean life comes easy. Brian Cuban — attorney, recovery advocate, and best-selling author — shows us just how dark things can get in this episode of The Game Changing Attorney Podcast.

As he takes us on his harrowing journey that eventually leads to a happy ending, we explore:

  • Developing harmful coping mechanisms and how they affected his entire life
  • The effects of living a double life
  • Hitting rock bottom — and surviving it
Episode 93 — Brian Cuban — The Addicted Lawyer: Tales of the Bar, Booze, Blow, and Redemption
Show Notes:

Growing pains. “I had classic middle-child syndrome. I was shy, I was withdrawn, and I internalized anything negative that was said about me. I wore who I was as a skin-tight suit.”

Distorted views. “I was starting to see a different Brian. I saw a fat pig who was never going to be loved, who would never hold a girl’s hand, who would never get his first kiss, who would never get married. That is the image that I carried into my freshman year of college when my dad drove me to Penn State.”

Losing control. “I thought, ‘What do I have control over in my life?’ As an 18-year-old teenager in 1979, I had control over food. But I associated eating with getting fat and being bullied. So I began to restrict my food intake. I quickly transitioned into binging and purging, which is when you eat a lot and throw up your food. I had become bulimic. I was a guy with an eating disorder, which is still very stigmatized today.”

Anonymous alcoholic. “I thought that maybe I could drink my way into acceptance by being a different Brian. I could forget that I was a fat pig — and before I knew it, at Penn State University, I was an alcoholic. I was drinking at night alone. I was going to class drunk and hungover.”

Tunnel vision. “My entire life wasn’t about my future. It was about the nose in front of my face. It was about survival. If I went out in the real world, that meant I had to expose myself. I didn’t want to give up my security blanket of my eating disorder and alcoholism because then I would be naked to the world as a messed up guy. I took the law school admission test for those reasons only.”

Love in powdered form. “One day, I was able to look in the mirror and love myself and knew that everyone around me loved me too.That was the day I discovered cocaine. It was like nothing I’d ever experienced — this level of self love and confidence. Cocaine and alcohol took over my life. The first time I took the Texas Bar Exam, my study aids were some Bar review books, 3.5 ounces of cocaine, a fifth of Jack Daniel’s, and two liters of Tab. I failed it, and then failed the second time as well.”

Cutting corners. “I became a stereotypical ambulance chaser. I was taking whatever cases I could, whether I was qualified or not. I had a group of chiropractors who would page me when they had a client in need of representation, and then I would be sitting there in the office as if it was totally unplanned.”

The Snowball Effect. “I’m very ashamed of the way I practiced law during many of those beginning years. Eventually I lost all of my clients and I went to jail in the summer of 1990 for a DWI after my first of three divorces (all failing because of drugs and alcohol), but it still wasn’t rock bottom.”

Misguided thoughts. “In the summer of 2005, I had finally lost all hope that I would ever look in the mirror and love myself, or that I would ever have any kind of future. I decided I would be doing my family a favor by ending my life by suicide.”

Asking the wrong questions. “I never asked myself if I had a problem. Instead, it was always, ‘Maybe I need to change drug dealers’ or, ‘Maybe I need to switch the Grey Goose to the Jack Daniel’s.’ And then came the paranoia. And then the pain, shame, and heart palpitations. And then back to paranoia.”

Blood is thicker than alcohol. “My father, the middle brother of three brothers like me, used to tell us, ‘Call your brother. Tell him you love him.’ This was the relationship he had as the middle of three boys, and he was passing onto us the gift of family — the strong family core that is a privilege for many. I wasn’t ready to lose my family. You can’t love somebody enough to make them recover. I realized I needed to begin to love myself enough to recover. I decided I was ready.”

Taking the first steps. “I walked into my psychiatrist’s office and finally allowed myself to be vulnerable in a safe space and allowed myself to cry. I allowed myself to talk about the hurt Brian, the hurt child that I had never healed. We began that process together.”

The difficult truth. “Over 20 percent of licensed attorneys struggle with alcohol use disorder. We have to be careful labeling them all as alcoholics because the scale is different for everyone.”

How colleagues can help. “It comes down to the people around us. What are you doing to help your profession? What are you doing to help your colleagues? How are we creating a compassionate community?”

The key ingredient. “Vulnerability is a linchpin of recovery. You have to allow yourself to be vulnerable. That doesn’t mean you have to go crying to your partner. You can go to counseling. Safe spaces are okay.”

Recovery requires one thing. “Be above ground. Be alive. That is the only prerequisite to recovery from addiction. Recovery is possible. Leading a full legal career is possible. Redefining a legal career is possible. If you’re in a position that you’ve had consequences, we deal with those and we come out of them and move ahead.”

What does it mean to be a game changer? “It means being able to perform at your maximum and lead others. It is literally impossible to be a game changing leader if you’re struggling.

Chef Boyardee
Ambulance Chaser
Pittsburgh, PA
Penn State University
Dallas, TX
The Dallas Mavericks
Mark Cuban
The Addicted Lawyer by Brian Cuban
Alcoholics Anonymous
Lawyer Assistance Program

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