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Brian Cuban Talks About Drugs, Alcohol, & Body Image

Karen Borta-2013 Karen Borta
Karen is a veteran journalist who joined CBS 11 News in 1995. Prior to...
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FORT WORTH (CBS 11 NEWS) - Brian Cuban is a man who, seemingly, has it all. His older brother, Mark Cuban, is the majority owner of the Dallas Mavericks—a billionaire. Brian himself is a lawyer, the host of a twice-weekly segment on a syndicated morning television show, and soon-to-be published author. At 51-years-old, Brian Cuban is finally living the life he wants to live. But getting to this point…nearly killed him.

“I’m a drug-addicted, coke-addicted, steroid-addicted lawyer who just BLANKED in his pants. Does it get much lower than that?” Brian Cuban asks me with a derisive laugh.

We sat down recently for a candid conversation at his Dallas home. We talked about the 30-plus years he spent abusing himself, and the reasons behind it.

“The train wreck downward spiral started when Mark bought the Mavs—and it has nothing to do with Mark,” Cuban amends quickly. “I don’t blame anyone but myself for that. Basically, I was a kid in a candy store in terms of recognition. I went from being ‘nobody likes me’ to all of the sudden I didn’t have to approach anyone. I was this good-looking, popular guy. Who cares that it was totally superficial?”

Cuban says he can trace his problems to his Pittsburgh junior high school in the late 1970’s.

“I was obese and I was severely bullied at school. The incident that stands out in my mind– and I might get emotional here—” Cuban falters a moment, as he tries to regain his composure. “The incident that stands out in my mind is I was pantsed. Do you know what being pantsed is? I was pantsed like you’ve never been pantsed.”

Cuban had been walking home from school with a group of boys whom he considered friends. He was wearing his much-loved gold disco pants that had been given to him by his big brother, Mark. He says the boys started pulling on the pants and telling Cuban how bad he looked in them. He says the boys ripped his pants to tatters and threw them in the street.

“So here’s this fat kid in his underwear,” explains Cuban. “I had to go out into the street, gather them up, pull them in a ball– the shreds– and walk a mile home. Naked. In my underwear.”

Cuban says the incident scarred him like nothing else before or since.

“That started the whole process of my seeing myself as a monster when I looked in the mirror,” Cuban says.

He developed Body Dysmorphic Disorder, which caused him to become obsessed with his physical imperfections, no matter how minor. By the time he started college, he was starving himself. He lost 70 pounds in six months, but he says that still didn’t change what he saw in the mirror. He began running—20 miles per day, five days per week. And that’s when, in addition to the anorexia, he became bulimic.

“After I would run,” he says, “I’d come home, eat a giant two-pound bag of peanut M&Ms or order a large Domino’s pizza and would then head straight for the toilet.”

It wasn’t until law school when he went on his first-ever date. And that’s also around the time he began drinking heavily.

“I would drink these bottles of tequila before I went out, these little bottles, and get myself smashed and go (by) myself (to) a bar and sit there by myself, not understanding why no one was attracted to me or talked to me, and then come home and deal with that by binging and purging.”

Cuban moved to Dallas in the late 1980’s, after law school, to be closer to his brother, Mark. That’s when he started dabbling with cocaine.

“If I’m in a crowd of people in a social situation, it’s very difficult for me to function. Very difficult,” says Cuban.

But the cocaine changed that.

“For two minutes, I was a different person and that’s all I needed to know. After that, it was about finding the right mixture of cocaine and alcohol to help me become this other Brian,” he says.

By around 2004, four years after Mark bought the Mavs, he was taking anti-depressants to fight clinical depression, and black market steroids to change his body. He’d married and divorced three times, had one DWI, and was still drinking and using cocaine. But he says none of it worked.

“Nothing changed the image in the mirror,” Cuban says. “No matter how much coke, how much Xanax, how much alcohol I drank, I woke up in the morning and I hated myself even more. It was the same guy in the mirror.”

But it was his unhappiness working as a lawyer that finally sent him over the edge.

“Where I was professionally was the final straw in the complete hate-yourself-Brian-Cuban-hate-yourself package. And once that kicked in, I had nothing to live for,” he says.

He says he doesn’t remember sending out the emails to his family threatening to kill himself—or the email to a friend asking for bullets to a gun. But he DOES remember his younger brother, Jeff, coming to his rescue.

“Mark was out of town, and so Mark was on his way back. And it was Jeff…” again, Cuban pauses to regain his composure. “Excuse me…”

He says his nightstand was littered with steroid vials, lines of cocaine, and the gun he wanted to use to take all the pain all away. His brothers took him, in his words, “kicking and screaming” to a local rehab center, but he refused to stay. They took away his car keys, but he says he just took a cab to the dealership to have another set made. He gave up drugs for about a month, but then returned to his destructive ways. He continued on that path until April 9th, 2007. That’s when he woke up two days after a friend’s bachelor party, with no memory of what had happened—or of the woman with whom he’d so obviously cheated on his live-in girlfriend.

“They say your low point is always your best point if you survive it, and that’s true.”

On that day he began a 12-step recovery program– and began working to regain his girlfriend’s trust. They’ve been together for seven years now, and although Cuban is still sober, he says he still has a hard time looking in the mirror. To help himself, and other men dealing with Body Dysmorphic Disorder, Cuban is writing a book called “Shattered Image.”

“Guys don’t talk about having eating disorders,” says Cuban. “Guys don’t talk about self-image disorders. It’s taboo, even now. No one would believe that a guy would throw up or starve himself, because that’s not what men do.”

Cuban expects “Shattered Image” to be published next year.

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