Exclusive: Steve-O On His Road to Recovery
What made you decide to do a book?
I met the writer, David Peisner, back in 2002 when he came out to the set of the first Jackass movie for Maxim and we tackled him, put a D-shaped bike lock around his neck, locked it, and then threw the key in a lake. We became friends from there. When I was on Dancing with the Stars and newly sober, the idea of doing a book came up and at first I wanted to write it myself but I quickly realized I couldn’t. I was just out of rehab, in my first sober living house. I had been to one psych ward and didn’t know I’d be going to a second one yet. That’s when I hit a serious wall.
Basically, I took an honest look at myself and at my actions, and was horrified and felt like I couldn’t forgive or live with myself. I told some people that I trusted in sobriety that I wanted to blow my brains out. And I don’t think I ever came close to actually killing myself but I felt so uncomfortable, I didn’t want to live. I checked myself into a second psych ward and that was when it dawned on me that suicide was not the answer. The answer was to stop doing the shit that made me feel bad and create a new history. After the second psych ward, when I had been sober for four months, I had a whole new resolve. And it was when I was around a year sober that Peisner contacted me about doing an article for Spin. I had so much shame and humiliation over the way I had been carrying on before I got sober and I was really afraid to delve into it. But I just went ahead and did the article anyway, and once I started with him on that, I was like, “If I’m doing it, I’m doing it” and we started working on the book.
What do you think will most surprise people about you when they read the book?
The honest answer is that I think people will be surprised to find that I’m not as much of an idiot as they think I am. I’m not a real moron. But it’s so douchey to tell someone that you’re smart. If somebody tells you they’re smart, they’re not; if someone tells you they’re rich, they’re not, and if someone tells you they’re famous, they’re not.
Well, saying you’re not a moron isn’t exactly the same thing as saying you’re smart. Is there any one thing you’re most scared of people learning about you?
Knoxville’s reaction to it was, “There could be some potential future Mrs. O’s out there who could be perusing this and not terribly thrilled to find all this out.” The reality is that if I want to really get married and settle down and have a family one day, in a lot of ways, I looked at this book as a test—a challenge that a potential future Mrs. O would have to make. I figure if she could handle everything in the book, we’re in good shape. I’ve never been a real secret-keeper.
In sobriety, we talk so much about fear—about how we don’t think we’re scared of anything and then realize when we’re clean that we’re actually terrified of everything. Considering your whole career is based around fearlessness, I’m curious if it was like that for you.
I don’t think I ever thought of myself as fearless, but I think you make a good point—that we don’t realize how afraid we are until we get sober. When I first got sober and became a vegetarian, I was just gallivanting around, bludgeoning everybody with my righteousness. I was telling people they needed God. I was, arguably, more arrogant and obnoxious than I had been loaded. I needed to film and post everything I was doing because I wanted to stay relevant. But after the second psych ward, I started to deal with what I was scared of. Now I’m almost afraid of all the social media shit because during my downward spiral, I was posting all this crazy shit on MySpace and sending out so many crazy emails. Sobriety, for me, has been a function of finding separation between my personal life and my career. I used to have no identity separate from Steve-O. And I think putting down that camera and working on an identity separate from all that saved my life as much as anything else. But now that I’m doing stand-up, I’m on Twitter and Facebook and all that.