by Brian Cuban

Most of my life has been about succumbing to various triggers that set off a litany of destructive behaviors.  Stress at work. Stress with relationships. Negative body image. Finally at age forty-five, I began recovery, developing a sense of self-awareness to recognize and deal with stressors as a part of life.  That life for me was twenty-seven years of eating disorders, drug addiction, clinical depression and alcoholism. It all culminated to three failed marriages and a near suicide. The journey to that point was one of shame and concealment through college, law school and my professional life as an attorney— sometimes high-functioning and successful, and sometimes not, as the two worlds I had created touched and then finally collided.

Realizing that no matter whether I walk into the abyss or hold my head up and face the darkness head on, there will always be stressors and events in life that are both completely in my control, self-created chaos, and beyond my control. Life simply happening. I realized I had complete control over two things:  Attitude and response.

Most anyone in the law profession understands that the stress can be intense. Stress of perpetration, of deadlines, of winning and losing. As a lawyer, much hinges on projecting an aura of self-confidence and strength, traits I did not possess.  Instead, I chose to self-medicate to provide the illusion of possessing these traits.  Soon began the paralyzing panic attacks and the feelings of total exposure any time I stepped in the courtroom.

Finally, after getting clean and sober, I walked away from the law profession with no regrets.  I was no longer willing to destroy my physical health and relationships to project what I was not.  I was not disciplined or disbarred. I simply chose another career path. Today I pursue my true passion: helping others who went through what I did to develop a better self-image.

Of course, not everyone can walk away from his or her chosen profession.  Bills must be paid. Obligations must be met.  Maybe you love what you do but there are obstacles of depression, addiction, family stress and job stress. Maybe the self-awareness for you is simply realizing what the underlying issues are and dealing with those to make you better at what you’re passionate about.

It is not for me to tell anyone what stresses to accept and avoid in their lives. What I do believe in though, universally, is the first step: self-awareness.  Being able to step back and evaluate the situation objectively.  That is easier said than done, but the hardest step to happiness is always the first small one.  When I took that first step towards recovery, I realized that the only thing holding me back from my future was my own perception of what people would think of me and the fear that I was projecting weakness to everyone I encountered.

In reality I found only love and support from every corner that I had hidden these behaviors from, namely from my friends, my family, and my girlfriend.  In the legal community, we are all weak in one form or another. We are all flawed. We all have to face triggers that can take us down a dark road mapped out by a lifetime of experiences. Do what you need to do to recognize the roadblocks.  Accept support from those who love and care about you. Remember there is no shame, only a fuller, happier life.

 Brian Cuban is an authority on eating disorders and addiction and author of the book SHATTERED IMAGE

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