Brian Cuban: The Addicted Lawyer
Be it alcohol, drugs, or something else, many of our clients struggle with addiction. We work everyday to counsel them and help them get plugged into the right places that assist in recovery. But we sometimes forget that addiction issues aren’t limited to our clients. Many of our friends and colleagues in the legal community struggle with addiction. Overworked and overstressed, many lawyers turn to alcohol or drugs as an escape.
Recently, a friend of mine connected me with Brian Cuban. For those of you who don’t know of Brian Cuban, he is a lawyer, speaker, and activist, and the brother of Mark Cuban (the owner of the Dallas Mavericks). Brian has been fighting (and winning) his battle against addiction since 2007. He is also a writer with a new book coming out soon – The Addicted Lawyer. I asked Brian if he would write a guest blog post about addiction. The story below is from Brian. Our hope is that this story will help to remind us to remember to help our colleagues in times of need and be on the lookout for the warning signs of addiction.
Gary Was a Lawyer, A Friend, An Addict
I drove past the same bus-stop every day. To the average person on his/her way to their next “stop” of the day, in life, nothing to set it off from any other.
That morning, I saw one such story I was intimately familiar with. There was Gary waiting for the bus. A lawyer. Undergraduate of Boston College Summa Cum Laude. Near the top of his class at Antioch School of Law. On to a great job with NBC. On to the NYC nightlife and the genetic pull of a family line ripe with alcohol use. Gary was an alcoholic and drug addict long before that bus stop. An addict trying to keep the shreds of his life and legal career together.
I had met Gary years before when we both worked of-counsel to a local Dallas firm. I was trying to hold my life together between addiction and an eating disorder. High functioning was a blessing and a curse. I needed no help. I showed up to court sober. I only did cocaine in the bathroom of the firm when I had no appointments. The pick up I needed after all night cocaine and alcohol benders. It all made perfect sense to me. In my mind, I was not an addict.
I had actually tried my last case with Gary. A bench trial contract matter. He ran the show. He was sober and brilliant. I didn’t want that show. I hated the practice of law. I was not afraid of a courtroom but I was sickened by them. A reminder of how much I hated my life and the career I had chosen for all the wrong reasons. We had a good result. Then Gary disappeared as he had sporadically done over the years since I first met him. I knew what that meant. We all knew. Periods of sobriety and stellar representation of his clients, periods of complaints of neglect and even showing up to client meetings apparently high.
Gary does not see me drive by him at the bus stop. He is looking at the ground. Waiting. My calls to him were never heard as his voicemail was full. I knew what that meant. Most addicts and their families know what that means. I went further down the road and turned around so I could drive up along side him. He got in. He had been to a 12-step meeting and was headed down to the Dallas 24-Hour club where he was a resident. He asked if I knew he had been disbarred. I had seen it in the local legal periodical. As what often happens with lawyers and addiction, clients money never made it to the client. State Bars take a dim view of stealing from clients and addiction is not an excuse. A common story. A common explanation from Gary. It was all a mistake. He had lost everything and was still in denial. I thought back to what my shrink had said to me April 8th 2007, the day I began my sobriety journey. “Brian, you have a law degree but you’re not a lawyer, you’re an addict.”
I drove Gary down to the 24 Hour Club. I bought him lunch. A familiar request for money until “he got back on his feet.” It became our routine. The bus stop. The drive. The excuses. The helplessness. Then he was gone again. The full voicemail. No longer at the transitional living home. He had tested dirty.
August 2013. My cell phone rings. A 516 area code. Long Island. Where some of Gary’s family lived. He had moved back home much as I had moved to Dallas to be with my brothers after finishing Pitt Law deep in alcohol use disorders. My family would save me. If recovery was only that simple. A quick conversation. He said he was sober and working as an attorney. He was also licensed in New York. I hid my annoyance at the fact that he had just been disbarred and yet was right back participating in another jurisdiction that may not know about his past. Was I ethically bound to say something? I struggled with the conflict between my view as a lawyer and as a recovering addict. It was not my recovery. It was his.
The day is finally here! My first book, “Shattered Image” is going to be released. Looking forward to the release party! A Facebook message from Gary. I had not heard from him in a while. The message was cheerful. A photo of a plane ticket to come to Dallas for my book signing. It would be the last time I would hear from Gary.
The message came from his ex-wife. The google explosion of his name told the story.
“Gary Abrams , 54 Fatally Struck By Truck Tractor Trailer” walking along a highway.
It is unknown whether he had been drinking but it does not matter. He is gone. He never “got it” in recovery. It’s not that he didn’t want it. He tried. I miss him and wish he had gotten it. Gary was a lawyer, a friend, a husband, a sibling, an alcoholic. an addict. In his passing, he also helped me. I know my recovery is only as good as today. Thank you Gary.
Brian Cuban: An authority on body dysmorphic disorder, male eating disorders and addiction(including steroids), Brian Cuban is the author of the best-selling book, Shattered Image: My Triumph Over Body Dysmorphic Disorder. It chronicles his first-hand experiences living with, and recovering from, twenty-seven years of eating disorders, alcoholism, drug addiction and Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD).