by Todd “Z-Man” Zalkins
On May 25, 1996, my life changed forever with the loss of Bradley Nowell. Bradley had struggled with heroin addiction for many years, and despite repeated attempts to “kick” the drug, it ultimately took him away from his family, his friends, and the world who would come to love his beautiful, soulful voice. I spent many years unable to cope with the guilt and shame of not being able to take Brad’s phone call at 4 a.m. on the day he died, due to being passed out from drugs and alcohol.
The Nowell family also has never been the same. And as Jim “Papa” Nowell has often said, “There’s no such thing as closure. It’ll be with me until the day I die.” The impact that families experience from losing a loved one to drug addiction is that severe. It’s like a wound that really never heals.
One of the great joys in my life is the friendship and closeness I share with the Nowell family. Anyone who knows them can attest to how important Bradley’s son, Jakob, is to them. In his late teens, Jakob developed some issues with drugs and alcohol, and I was called upon to help him out. This was – and still is – one of the greatest moments in my life. Being able to help my friend’s son get clean and sober will be something I cherish for the rest of my life.
I can’t explain the feeling I get when someone wants help but they don’t have the financial resources to allow them to get the treatment they so desperately need. This is one of the biggest challenges we face in our society today – a broken system where addicted people want to get well but there’s just not enough help available.
Papa Nowell and I were kicking around this idea one day. And I said to him, “Why don’t we create our own program and help musicians just like Bradley – guys who want help and who don’t have the luxury of deep pockets and stuff like that!” We embraced the concept immediately and shared the idea with Kellie Nowell (Bradley’s sister), and The Nowell Family Foundation was born.
Today, because of sobriety, my life and the way I look at the world is much different – with more love, joy and freedom. With Jakob living his life differently, we’re able to see him take a different path than his dad did. And through all of the heartbreak and tragedy, we have bonded together to bring to you The Nowell Family Foundation, dedicated to treating men in the music industry struggling with opiate addiction.
For many years, I have dreamed of being involved in a project like this. And now, it’s finally happening! This nonprofit treatment facility will be one of a kind, and we are proud to call it Bradley’s House.
Our plan is to be up and running by the end of 2018. We appreciate your generous support and look forward to seeing you at fundraising events we’ll be having during the year, each and every year, because we are in this for the long haul!
“Where there’s a will, there’s a way out.”
– Todd “Z-Man” Zalkins