November 13, 2023

Why Comedian Theo Von Chose to Get Sober

An image of comedy stage, depicting the topic of the Theo Von addiction

Theo Von first appeared on MTV’s Road Rules and participated in five Real World/Road Rules Challenge seasons. Using those appearances as a springboard, Theo Von opted for a new path, redirecting his focus toward stand-up comedy. Von’s comedic strength lies in his ability to infuse humor into weighty topics, with his daring performances often featuring personal anecdotes about his ailing father, his struggles with addiction within his family, and the experiences of Hurricane Katrina victims. Read on to learn why Theo Von got sober.

microphone depicting the role fame played in the Theo Von addiction

Theo’s Rise To Fame

Theo Von rose to prominence through his unique blend of charm, self-deprecating humor, and astute storytelling abilities. Von first gained widespread recognition as a contestant on the hit 2000 reality television show Road Rules. His affable personality and rapier wit quickly endeared him to audiences, setting the stage for his future career in the entertainment industry.

Following his stint on reality TV, Theo Von honed his comedic skills and developed a distinctive style that resonated with audiences across the United States. His breakthrough came with appearances on various comedy specials and late-night shows, where his sharp observational humor and engaging storytelling captivated viewers.

In addition to his stand-up comedy, Theo Von’s podcast, This Past Weekend, contributed significantly to his rise to fame. The podcast, which features conversations with guests from the entertainment industry and beyond, allowed Theo to showcase his natural conversational skills and endearing personality, further solidifying his place in the comedy world.

Over the years, Theo Von has continued to expand his presence in the entertainment industry, releasing successful comedy specials, hosting popular podcasts, and making regular appearances on various television shows and podcasts. His ability to connect with audiences through genuine and relatable storytelling has cemented his status as a prominent figure in the world of comedy.

Like so many celebrities who appear content in the public eye, Theo Von has grappled with serious substance use issues that prompted him to engage with recovery. How did this come about, then?

When Did Theo Von Get Sober?

Von is a frequent guest on the Joe Rogan Experience podcast and he is a close companion of Rogan. Theo revealed to Joe during a recorded conversation that a significant factor in his journey to sobriety was a particular morning when he was scheduled to appear on the Opie with Jim Norton radio show at 6:30 am on a 2016 summer morning. Theo Von arrived at the show still under the influence of cocaine, rendering him almost unable to articulate his thoughts. Serendipitously, the other guest on the show that day happened to be Darryl Strawberry, who had already embraced sobriety. This serves as a moment of clarity for Theo.

How Did Theo Von Become Addicted to Drugs?

Theo revealed the full enormity of the night in question in an emotional outpouring on his own podcast, as well as outlining how his substance use disorder developed.

Theo Von is one of four children. When he was born, his father was already 70 years old. He called him by his first name, explaining that this was largely driven by shame – the same shame that he felt concerning his poor origins. According to Theo, “I started telling stories – making people laugh to stop them from hating. I felt judged and I felt lesser. Sometimes, I didn’t feel anything.

Expanding upon the difficulties of his upbringing, Theo added that his sister required a liver transplant from birth and that he felt that she got more love and affection from their mother as a result. “I never felt OK. I always felt like I was trying to make things OK.

Extreme situations sometimes call for extreme measures, and Theo decided to become legally emancipated from his parents aged 14.

Given such an unconventional and emotionally distant upbringing, it came as no surprise to Theo that he developed a taste for cocaine. “I liked cocaine because I would get it and do it by myself, at night.” He continued to self-medicate mental health issues with cocaine for two years on an irregular basis before escalating usage to several times a week. Theo Von explained that he never smoked crack and only used powdered cocaine. While he downplayed his evident addiction, denial often accompanies substance use and an ill-fated night in Harlem prompted a chain of events that led to Theo’s recovery.

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One Night in Harlem…

Theo’s storytelling skill is evident when he details heading out for the evening before he was due to appear on Opie with Jim Norton. He describes how one moment he was being driven through Manhattan by a taxi driver called Luigi before the driver moved into the rear seats with a hired escort and proceeded to take cocaine.

Theo then describes how he started to drive the taxi himself, also high on cocaine, with the meter still ticking. He glosses over the rest of the evening and forwards to the morning of the radio show. “I had three showers in ten minutes, drying off each time. I couldn’t feel my face on either side. I couldn’t speak. That should tell you all you need to know.

Ex-baller Darryl Strawberry was a fellow guest on the show. Theo Von said that he idolized Strawberry and had also previously judged him for allowing drugs to get the better of him – Strawberry is also in recovery from alcoholism and cocaine addiction.

Describing how he sat there coming down from cocaine and unable to communicate, adding that, “The main gift God had given me was my voice. And I couldn’t use it because I’d been up all night just using drugs to feel good somehow, or using drugs to feel anythingThings aligned and things needed to change.

I just had this moment where I thought something needs to change.

Theo Von retold the story of this ill-fated night when he returned to Los Angeles and a friend recommended that he attend AA meetings. He said, “I had always listened to people’s stories. And I always wanted a different story myself. I also didn’t know how much I wanted to be loved. So, I just kept going to the meetings. It helped change my attitude toward LA and toward my life.

Describing his experience of 12-step support groups, Von states that, “I listen for the similarities rather than the differences. For me, it’s not about the drugs and alcohol. I never liked drinking. I was never a pot head. I wasn’t a cokehead. I was doing things I wasn’t enjoying and didn’t want to be doing. I had never really loved myself because somewhere in my past, I guess I had felt like I wasn’t worth it. And, for the first time in my life, I have a story of my own.

Taking each day as it comes, Theo concludes that “Instead of trying to get better, just get different. See how different works.

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Get Help for Overcoming Addiction at Gratitude Lodge

 Addiction is a chronic and relapsing brain condition, but it responds positively to treatment with evidence-based interventions. We can help you achieve and maintain long-term sobriety at Gratitude Lodge in Southern California.

 Start your recovery the right way by engaging with our medical detoxification program for drug or alcohol withdrawal at one of our rehab centers in Long Beach or Newport Beach, CA. Detox prepares you for ongoing inpatient treatment where you can unpack the psychological aspect of addiction.

 All Gratitude Lodge treatment programs blend therapies that include: 

 To learn more about celebrity addiction stories, like Lucy Hale or Elvis Presley, check out more Gratitude Lodge blogs today.

 Addiction does not need to define your life. Call 800-994-2184 for immediate help.

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Jenni Busse MS, LPCC

Jenni Busse MS, LPSS is the Clinical Director at Gratitude Lodge. Jenni oversees the clinical program and the clinical team at Gratitude Lodge as a whole. Jenni has worked in treatment for almost 14 years. Her background as a licensed therapist and her passion for helping others intersected with addiction recovery when she started working primarily in detox residential treatment.

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Drug detox can vary according to the patient’s addiction factors, including the substance abused, how long the addiction has lasted, the patient’s medical condition, if any other disorders are present, and more. Our skilled and credentialed team at Gratitude Lodge work closely with every patient going through drug detox.

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