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Stories Of Recovery: Steve-O

by Landmark Recovery

November 16, 2018
Steve-O at a book signing

In many ways, one of the stars and fan-favorites of the MTV show and movie series, Jackass, Steve-O, is lucky to be alive. From lighting himself on fire to piercing his body using a BB gun to swallowing and puking up a live goldfish, Steve-O has done just about everything to his body. Not only famous for his ridiculous stunts that he went through for his TV series, Steve-O was also well-known for his highly-publicized substance abuse issues that landed him in a psych ward and multiple rehab facilities to help him get past his drug addiction.

Few people have lived a life as chaotic and drug-fueled as Steve-O and, luckily for him, it didn’t end in death.

“I remember thinking, ‘Jim Morrison doesn’t have shit on me’. Like, I am so good at being a drug addict.”

Steve “Steve-O” Glover was born on June 13, 1974 in London, England. Throughout his childhood, Steve-O lived in Canada, Brazil, Venezuela and Florida. He eventually attended the University of Miami, where he sustained what he considers to be his worst injury.

“When I was quite younger, in 1995, at a keg party at the University of Miami, I threw myself off a balcony. I had a concussion, a fractured cheekbone, seven broken teeth, ten stitches in my chin, and a broken wrist.

Steve-O dropped out of college after one year due to grades and behavioral problems. He began couch-surfing for about three years. During this time he was moving around constantly, taking odd jobs and doing a lot of drugs.

In his memoir, “Professional Idiot”, he recalls one instance when he was drunk and on Valium and decided to get in a car and set out on a road trip to see a girl. After swerving around the road for a bit, he was pulled over and arrested. He called his mom while he was in jail to bail him out.

“She told me, ‘Have a good time in there because I’m not bailing you out unless you go directly to rehab.’ I took a quick look around and told her rehab sounded like a pretty good idea… I knew I had a drinking problem and, in theory, I wanted to give rehab a fair shot. Realistically, I just wasn’t ready for it yet. My priorities were elsewhere,” he says in his memoir.

After going through rehab, he turned back to drinking and doing drugs regularly. During this time he had hopes of becoming famous through performing and filming different stunts and eventually wanted to be a stuntman in Hollywood.  A lot of the stunts he did at this time would later be featured on his DVD sets like “Steve-O: The Early Years”.

“I’d developed a simple mental trick to help override that survival instinct: I’d go over the whole thing in my mind and then count to three on my fingers. Once I’d committed myself to whatever dumbass stunt I was trying and visualized it going okay, I’d put out my first finger. With my second finger, I’d take a deep breath. When my third finger would come out, my body would be ready to follow through with it. Over the years there have been stunts that I’ve decided against doing for one reason or another, but once that first finger comes out, once I’ve committed, I never turn back.”


Steve-O at a book signing

Gage Skidmore from Peoria, AZ, United States of America, Steve-O (6091977850)CC BY-SA 2.0


Steve moved to New Mexico and lived with his sister while performing ridiculous stunts to attract attention. One stunt that gained him some notoriety involved someone spitting a fireball on him while his hair was on fire, at which point Steve-O would do a back-flip while spitting his own fireball into the air. While the stunt didn’t go as planned and he got severely burned, he still finished it.

His sister saw his dedication to wanting to become a stuntman but didn’t think he was making proper progress toward his goal. She recommended that he move on to attend Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Clown College to help further his goal of becoming a famous stuntman. Despite a good audition and spending eight weeks going through training, he never got a call to become an actual Ringling Brothers clown.

“…so I moved in with two skateboard buddies, hung that $2,000 clown costume in my closet, and started selling underweight bags of pot to make the rent. How quickly things turn.”

Eventually, a producer he had come in contact with during the fireball stunt in New Mexico reached out to him about a pilot for a new series on MTV, Jackass. While the stunt he performed for the pilot never actually aired, producers were impressed with his ambition and when the call came that the show was being made, he was invited to go on with them.

“Jackass premiered on October 1, 2000, and was an immediate hit…by week two, we were the highest-rated half-hour show in MTV history. Almost immediately, people started recognizing me in public, asking for my autograph or wanting me to pose for photos with them. Getting free drinks in bars no longer required doing anything more than showing up.”

Despite the commercial success of the show, Steve-O was only paid $1,500 for the first season something he recognized as “paying your dues”. Still, because he was spending so much money on alcohol and drugs at that time it wasn’t long before he found himself broke once again.

“I was broke, unemployed, homeless, and a star of a hit show on MTV. How many people can ever say that?”

Jackass got picked up for a second season and with it came a significant pay raise, $32,000 for the season. Since then, Steve-O saw continued success in the Jackass world, stand-up comedy and even wrote a best-selling book.

Despite the success and his emergence as a star, Steve-O continued to struggle with substance abuse problems. While he was on Joe Rogan’s podcast, Steve-O relived some of his most intense moments during his addictions and talked about his path to sobriety and the problems he faced.

He spoke on his drug use which consisted of multiple drugs like cocaine, ketamine, nitrous oxide, PCP and a number of others.

“I remember one time I was in a hotel room in London, with just way to much [Ketamine] and, like, at one point the hotel room just started free falling….I was hearing voices because I was huffing so much nitrous oxide while I was doing cocaine.”

He was arrested a number of times for possession of drugs, disturbing the peace, and even trespassing one time when he broke the wall between his apartment and his neighbor’s apartment. But those arrests never seemed to affect his drug use, always turning back to substances as soon as he was released.

“Within two hours of walking out of jail, I have my buddy videotape me. I’m jumping up and down on the roof a parked car screaming ‘God is the sun!’ Whatever that means….It’s amazing that I didn’t go right back to jail…I had pockets full of drugs, you know? That bender lasted for, like, I don’t know, maybe 24 hours.”

While Steve-O tried earlier in his life to go through rehab, he had no other choice but to make an attempt at it in 2008 when Johnny Knoxville and his other friends showed up to his apartment and staged an intervention and told him that they wanted to go to rehab.

“I walked around trying to ignore the intervention going on in my apartment as if it had nothing to do with me. The guys wouldn’t let me go into my bedroom without following me in there and kept insisting that this was going to happen whether I agreed to it or not. I kept telling them I was fine…It became clear I wasn’t going to win this battle.”

They went and checked him into a 72-hour psych ward after receiving an email from him that hinted at a possible suicide.

“The guys had provided the hospital with printouts of all my suicidal e-mails, which easily qualified me for 5150 status as ‘a threat to myself or others.’ There was really no opportunity to talk my way out of this one.”

However, even after being checked in to the hospital, he wasn’t fully committed to recovery, he believed it was pointless this far into his life and that he couldn’t do it.

“I honestly [believed] if I could have ever gotten sober, like, I was past that point. I was too far down the line…a lost cause.”

Steve-O went on to explain that, despite these feelings, he listened to therapy sessions on alcoholism and even began reading a book that talked about substance abuse during his time in the psych ward.

He soon saw that there may be some hope and he became dedicated to turning to a clean lifestyle. After getting out of the hospital he went to a rehab facility immediately. From the moment he began inpatient drug rehab, he saw it as a career opportunity. Steve-O began documenting his rehab process, as a way to gain attention.

“I was as desperate for fame as I’d ever been, if not more so. Sobriety was just going to be my newest stunt to ensure the spotlight was pointed my way.”

While he was getting sober, Steve-O was still acting out and sending emails to family, friends and coworkers that featured incoherent ramblings and rants about things like “the Fifth Sum, The Fourth World, Planet X, and Keylonic Science.”

However, after a little over 30 days of living sober the fog began to clear and it started to show Steve-O what a terrible person he had turned into over the past few decades due to his substance abuse.

“I felt like I didn’t deserve forgiveness for all the shit I had done. I didn’t deserve forgiveness for the way I had treated people. I didn’t deserve forgiveness for what I had put my family and friends through. I couldn’t forgive myself for the humiliation my behavior brought about. I looked in the mirror and I fucking hated myself.”

After about three months in rehab facilities he checked himself back in to a psychiatric ward after struggling with depression, self-hatred, and suicidal thoughts because of the guilt he felt during the process, something that he says can happen for people going through recovery.

While at a psych ward for the second time, Steve-O went through a significant depression that consisted of him sleeping all day, only waking up to take medication and eat. After a couple days he wrote an entry into his journal that changed his perspective. The journal entry described feeling self-pity for himself and his situation. It opened his eyes to the fact that “rest of the world didn’t need me to do it a favor by getting sober. I needed to do that favor for myself.”

He came to terms with the fact that his motivation for getting sober had been misplaced and that he needed to start the process over again despite being clean for four months.

Following his second stint at drug and alcohol rehab, he decided to live in a sober living house. He also realized that his addiction to fame and attention was almost as harmful as his substance abuse. So, for the rest of the year, Steve-O laid low and chose not to work in order not to return to the environment that may trigger a relapse.

As most people know, Steve-O eventually came out of his hibernation. At first, with “Dancing with the Stars”, then a DVD called “Steve-O: Demise and Rise”, and finally “Jackass 3D” as part of his comeback into the limelight.

Steve-O said that it was important for him to prove himself that he could still do all the wild, horrific stunts without drugs or booze.

“I was more eager than ever before.”

Despite how important this movie was to Steve-O, he still had worries that it would not perform as well commercially as the first two did. However, that proved to be an unnecessary worry as the film made more than $50 million in the opening weekend and set box office records. It eventually went on to gross more than $160 million worldwide.

Since the success of Jackass 3D, Steve-O has continued to live an active and sober lifestyle. He has even become a voice in the animal rights community. Over the past few years, he has been making headlines by protesting SeaWorld, including scaling a 100 foot crane with a giant, inflatable killer whale, a stunt that landed him 30 days in jail.

Steve-O saw his 10th year of sobriety earlier this year. He celebrated by participating in a triathlon.

“[Sobriety] saved my life, it saved my life big time and I’m so fucking stoked about it.”

At Landmark Recovery, our patients are provided with the tools, resources, and support they need to find clarity in the fight against addiction. We provide residential treatment, intensive outpatient treatment, and medical detox centers to individuals struggling with a substance use disorder. If your or someone you love is struggling with an addiction, don’t hesitate to call our admissions team.

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About the Author

Landmark Recovery

Landmark Recovery

Landmark Recovery was founded with a determination to make addiction treatment accessible for all. Through our integrated treatment programs, we've helped thousands of people choose recovery over addiction and get back to life on their own terms. We're on a mission to save one million lives over the next century. We encourage all those struggling with substance use to seek professional help.