Brian Cuban tells the JBA about his battle with addiction and his effort to promote wellness in the legal profession.
To open the Jacksonville Bar Association’s meeting Wednesday at the Omni Jacksonville Hotel, Circuit Judge Karen Cole led the members and guests in a moment of reflection.
She began by saying that almost everyone has been or knows someone who has been touched by mental illness, including alcohol or drug addiction.
“And a lawyer or judge who would benefit from professional assistance is far from alone in our profession,” Cole said.
Her remarks served as a preview of the keynote speaker, Brian Cuban. He’s an attorney, author and recovery advocate who began his life after drugs and alcohol in 2007.
Cuban recounted his experience, beginning with eating disorders at a young age, followed by chronic substance abuse in college and in law school.
“By the time I was a sophomore at Penn State, I was a full-blown alcoholic. By 26, I was addicted to coke,” he said.
Cuban said he attributes failing the Bar exam twice before finally passing to his addictions.
“I wasn’t a very good student and graduated by the skin of my teeth. I was so ashamed, I didn’t go to the graduation,” he said.
Before he left practice, Cuban said he used cocaine in the restrooms in federal and state courthouses, even though he knew he would be arrested and possibly disbarred if he was discovered.
He had his first of two trips to rehab at age 44, after three failed marriages and in 2007, began his life after substance abuse.
“If I can leave you with one lesson, it would be the ‘two-ask question,’” said Cuban.
“When you think someone you work with may be struggling, ask them ‘Is there anything I can do?’ then say, ‘If you want to talk, I am here,’” he said.
“That may be what it takes to send someone in our profession to wellness,” Cuban concluded.
Cuban came to Jacksonville for the lunch meeting, and to facilitate a three-hour CLE program that was offered free to JBA members.
Circuit Judge Katie Dearing, president of the JBA, said the afternoon program was offered to members as a way to move forward the conversation about the importance of mental health and wellness in the profession.
“Talking about it makes you a better, stronger lawyer,” she said.