Brian Cuban’s Story of Eating Disorder & Addiction – You’re Not an Alcoholic Until You Graduate
I graduated from high school and went on to Penn State University.
During my freshman year, I had an incident that I remember as if it was yesterday. It was Fall Semester, and my father had driven me up for orientation.
Remember, I had never been on a date, never kissed a girl, I’d never been in prom, all of those things that I thought defined acceptance and popularity. Every day, I saw the prom king and the prom queen and kids holding hands, getting the first kiss, going to the gym dance with dates. I was one of “geeks” standing against the wall that nobody wanted to dance with.
My dad is helping me unpack at college, and I make eye contact with this girl standing in the parking lot, and I start sweating because she’s looking at me, too.
I start imagining my entire life with this girl. She had long, brown, curly hair and, in my eye, flashed my whole life with this girl within a span of 15 seconds. I was thinking “we’re gonna date, we’re gonna get married, we’re gonna have 2 ½ children.”
It wasn’t a smile, it was a smirk, and she cups her hands over her mouth and says, “Ugly! Ugly!”
I’m not the first kid that has had nasty things said to him by other teenagers and young adults. It went on then, and it goes on now.
But, I was somebody who has already broken. I had a terrible self-image, and I remember, right then, like it was yesterday that at that moment, my whole life seemed out of control to me.
I would never be loved. I would never get married. I would never have my mother’s love.
(Although I know now my mom did love me and we have a great relationship)
I would always be that guy standing against the wall in the high school gym, never asked to dance, never getting asked on a date.
How could I get control of my life? It was just spinning out of control. What did I have control over?
I had control over food.
I associated eating more with Chef Boyardee ravioli and getting heavy.
So, I decided the path to acceptance was to get thinner.
I thought, “if I got thinner, I would be just like the high school prom king.” The prom queen and the girl in that parking lot wouldn’t think I was ugly anymore.
It was then, as a freshman at Penn State in 1979, that I began to restrict and restrict and restrict.
I had delved into anorexic behavior and that weight-loss and restricting gave me feelings of acceptance.
If this is triggering to anyone, know that I am going to discuss weighing myself but with the disclaimer that it is an unhealthy behavior.
I began weighing myself obsessively. I would go to the infirmary sometimes twice a day.
I remember that I once caught a glimpse of the nurse’s notes:
“Mr. Cuban is coming in and weighing himself obsessive-compulsively. We don’t know what to make of this, and it worries us.”
They never said a word to me about it.
This was 1979. Karen Carpenter later passed away in 1983 from anorexia, bringing eating disorders into the pre-digital spotlight.
But that hadn’t happened yet.
I was a guy experience eating disorder behavior, but there was just no awareness.
There was nothing they could make of it. Nobody was trained to recognize the signs back then.
There was no public stigma to this type of behavior back then either because for there to be a stigma there needs to be a conversation. No one was talking about these things, certainly not for men, even though we now know that about 25% of all those with eating disorders are male.
Then, I would transition into the act of bingeing and purging towards the end of my freshman year, in 1980.
I remember that, just like the compulsive weighing, for the 15 seconds during the act of bingeing and purging it felt as if everything was okay. That the next day that girl would like. The next day, I would get asked out on a date. The next day, my mother would love me.
But, when those 15 seconds went away, the same just came in like a tornado or hurricane into my stomach of an act of shame that I did not understand.
Bulimia had only been a clinical diagnosis since 1976.
I don’t even remember what the thought process was that brought me from restricting to the bingeing and purging, but I remember that it gave me 15 seconds of relief.
That is how I would experience bulimia for over two decades, into my 40’s.
Then, at the age of 21, I became old enough to drink and, simultaneously, discovered exercise bulimia.
I began running in an obsessive-compulsive manner about 10 to 20 miles per day.
With my clinical depression, I so wanted just to be alone. To be alone with my eating disorder. To be alone with my clinical depression because I didn’t think anyone would ever love me anyway.
Every college student I looked at, I projected that they saw what I saw in myself, so I just felt it was better to do things alone.
I was also bingeing and purging, started drinking multiple times a week, and going to class drunk.
So, now I’m an alcoholic. Now, I’m an exercise bulimic. Now, I’m a traditional bulimic.
There were some days between all these destructive behaviors that I was so dehydrated I couldn’t get out of bed. I could feel my heart having arrhythmias, and I was very lucky I didn’t have a stroke.
I didn’t seek counseling, I wasn’t aware there was any counseling.
I wasn’t aware that, for the drinking, there was 12-step (Alcoholics Anonymous) but, as a college student, I probably wouldn’t have taken advantage of it anyways.
There was something so shameful about all of it to me.
I remember once walking through my hamburger joint drunk. I saw a rack of pamphlets for the 12-step groups.
The pamphlet had about 20 questions of “You might be an alcoholic if…” and my answers were yes, yes, yes, yes.
I’m not an alcoholic. I’m a college student. That’s what I thought made it okay.
TO BE CONTINUED IN PART 5…
Virtual Presentation by Brian Cuban in the Dec. 7, 2017 Eating Disorder Hope Inaugural Online Conference & link to the press release at https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/eating-disorder-hope-offers-inaugural-online-conference-300550890.html
About the Presenter: Author: Brian Cuban is an author whose Amazon best-selling book “Shattered Image: My Triumph Over Body Dysmorphic Disorder,” chronicles his first-hand experiences living with, and recovering from eating disorders, drug addiction and Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD).
Brian speaks regularly about his recovery, childhood bullying, fat shaming and breaking the mail eating disorder stigma. He has spoken at prestigious locations such as University of North Carolina Center for Eating Disorder Excellence. He has keynoted prestigious events such as the Entertainment Industries Council 3rd Annual Media and Mental Health Awards. Brian has appeared on national talk shows such as the Katie Couric show discussing the above issues. Brian also writes extensively on these subjects. His columns have appeared on CNN.com, Foxnews.com, The Huffington Post and in online and print newspapers around the world.
Based in Dallas, Texas, Cuban is also the segment host for “Brian Cuban’s Legal Briefs” on EyeOpenerTV, and founder of his blog, The Cuban Revolution. Additionally, Cuban is a lawyer and activist specializing in 1st Amendment issues and hate speech and has lectured on the topic in major media outlets and conferences around the world. For more information, visit www.briancuban.com
About the Transcript Editor: Margot Rittenhouse is a therapist who is passionate about providing mental health support to all in need and has worked with clients with substance abuse issues, eating disorders, domestic violence victims, and offenders, and severely mentally ill youth.
As a freelance writer for Eating Disorder and Addiction Hope and a mentor with MentorConnect, Margot is a passionate eating disorder advocate, committed to de-stigmatizing these illnesses while showing support for those struggling through mentoring, writing, and volunteering. Margot has a Master’s of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Johns Hopkins University.
The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of eating disorders. These are not necessarily the views of Eating Disorder Hope, but an effort to offer a discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.
We at Eating Disorder Hope understand that eating disorders result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an eating disorder, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.
Published on July 6, 2018.
Reviewed & Approved by Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC @ July 6, 2018
Published on EatingDisorderHope.com