Exclusive: Steve-O On His Road to Recovery

By Anna David 06/19/11

Jackass star Ryan Dunn died after a night of heavy drinking. So how did his most self-destructive co-star manage to get out alive? Now three years sober, Steve-O talks about doing stunts without cocaine, walking down carpets he used to piss on, and how he finally managed to turn his life around.

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Steve-O has extremely strong feelings about bottled water. “The plastic has all these crazy med chemicals and stuff in it that taints it,” he insists while cleaning dishes that contained frozen vegan foods he just served me. “The worst is when it gets cold and then warm: they find really scary bacteria in it." Beth, a pretty brunette with kind eyes and an easy laugh, turns to me. "I feel like people try to take advantage of the fact that Steve cares about this stuff," she says. "This guy yesterday was trying to sell him a $4,000 water filtration thing and I was looking at him, like, 'Please don't buy into this shit.'" Beth and Steve are close—they seem to share dogs, Kindles and an array of sober experiences (she got sober six months before him). They also dated for 10 months—"We hung out so much, we were like, 'Should we date? All right,'" Beth explains—but it didn't work out and Steve-O, now single, considers her "my best friend in the whole world."

The fact that I’m sitting in the apartment of a guy best known for stapling his scrotum together, having just consumed some fake chicken he’s heated up for me and Beth and listening to him spout off about the dangers I’m regularly exposing myself to through my water consumption should feel stranger than it is. This is a man, after all, who has arguably ingested more chemicals, and exposed himself to more dangers, than all the residents of Paris, Texas added together. But scratch just below the surface of Steve-O—ne Glover—and you’ll learn quite quickly that the London-born 37-year-old is nothing like he may seem. His dad was a top executive at Pepsi who moved his family around the globe as he climbed the corporate ladder (they settled in Connecticut when Steve was a toddler). He spends his days taking care of his dogs, working on his stand-up comedy material (he's in the middle of a worldwide comedy tour), and focusing on his sobriety. His favorite new friend—his "man crush," according to Beth—is the lead singer of a punk rock band who happens to have written a book called Meat is for Pussies. He hangs out with the Jackass guys only "if there's a reason...if stuff brings us together." (Following Dunn's death, Glover cancelled six comedy shows; his only comment on the matter he provided on Twitter when he said, "I don't know what to say, except I love Ryan Dunn and I'm really going to miss him.")

"I was dreading the stunts more than I ever had before, and at the same time, I was probably more eager than ever to do them, because it was so important to me to prove that I still had that in me—that sobriety hadn’t turned me into a pussy."

It’s true that the alumni of MTV’s Jackass and Wildboyz (as well as three number-one Jackass movies) imploded onto public consciousness by piercing his butt cheeks together, vomiting wasabi he’d snorted and attaching leaches to his eyes, among other stomach-churning activities. It’s a simple fact that he has his own visage (holding two thumbs up) tattooed onto his back, that he's been arrested repeatedly, in various countries, and that he was evicted from his apartment for, among other offenses, spitting on his neighbor while brandishing a BB gun and busting a mop pole between the wall that separated their apartments. But what may have simply looked like the recklessness of a wild and crazy party boy with a previously unseen combination of adrenaline and a need for attention was actually the sign of an addiction that surely would have killed someone with fewer lives than Glover seems to have.

Now sober over three years and the co-author of the surprisingly endearing and yet altogether unsparing memoir Steve-O: Professional Idiot, the animal lover (four dogs and counting) has made a full transformation. He's painfully honest in the book about about how much he annoyed the Jackass guys when he first met them, about the way he used relationships with people like Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan and Nicole Richie to further his career, and about how he abandoned his mother when she was dying of cancer. Though he used to swallow goldfish for kicks, he's now a vegan because “I arrived at the conclusion that I need to be more compassionate in my lifestyle.” The guy who once made posting videos on MySpace his raison d’être, regularly emailing all of his most drug-addled, passionate beliefs (sample: “Call it a hunch, but I believe that the time for us humans to be seeing through only two eyes and thinking with individual minds is EXTREMELY limited [i.e. only until 2011, when the Age of Aquarius begins]”) to a collection of celebrities, journalists and other industry heavyweights, and pissed on the red carpet at the Jackass: Number Two premiere now sees the his former outrageous behavior and need to videotape everything in order to “stay relevant” as “part of my demise.” And he’s clearly thrilled to have that phase of his life over. (His Jackass cohorts are as well: in the book, Glover details how they intervened on him when he was threatening suicide and Knoxville has since publicly praised Glover for his sobriety.)  “My story,” Glover admits while cleaning off a fork (because he’s decided that as a guest, I deserve a clean one), “is not a particularly flattering one.”

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Anna David is the New York Times-bestselling author of multiple books about overcoming difficulties and coming out on the other side: the novels Party Girl (HarperCollins, 2007) and Bought (HarperCollins, 2009), the non-fiction books Reality Matters (HarperCollins, 2010), Falling for Me (HarperCollins, 2011), By Some Miracle I Made It Out of There (Simon & Schuster, 2013) and True Tales of Lust and Love and the Kindle Singles Animal Attraction (Amazon, 2012) and They Like Me, They Really Like Me (Amazon, 2013). Find Anna on LinkedIn and Twitter.