Todd Z Man Zalkins – Sublime, Recovery, and The Long Way Back

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The Long Way Back: The Story of Todd Z Man Zalkins

The Long Way Back: The Story of Todd Z-Man Zalkins

After losing his childhood friend Bradley Nowell of Sublime to a heroin overdose, Todd Zalkins (aka Z-Man) spirals into prescription pill addiction. His epic battle with opioid painkillers brings sharp focus to the nation’s Opioid Epidemic.

Z Man Podcast

The Z-Man podcast with Todd Zalkins

Todd Zalkins is a Public Speaker, Interventionist, Author, and Documentary Filmmaker. He is the subject of the Award-Winning Documentary film “The Long Way Back” and the Author of the acclaimed book “Dying For Triplicate.” On the podcast Todd discusses everything from music to addiction and recovery, including heartfelt and hilarious interviews with friends and peers who have inspired him along the way.

The legendary buzzkill Ron Jeremy is is not only the judge of the film, but he’s also the guy who rapes me in jail.
With me today, we have a real treat. We have Todd z man.
Todd’s a certified family crisis interventionist, public speaker, host of the Z man podcast with Todd’s Elkins. He’s a best selling author with his book dying for triplicate. And on top of all this, he’s a documentary filmmaker and his award winning film the long way back the story of Todd z. Man Zalkins, can be seen on Hulu, Amazon, Google Play and iTunes. Todd, so grateful to have you on the show. How is everything? Everything’s good, man. Thank you for having me on today, Andrew, and looking. It’s like we’re in each other’s living room. It’s just by computer. Yeah. So basically, it’s the exact same thing as being in the living room when you’re
when you’re in the other side of the country. And over a computer, same thing. Yeah, man. I’m just I’m just hanging out here in my office doing this at my office here in Long Beach, California. And thank you for having me on. Definitely. So why don’t you give the
listeners a background of who you are, where you came from, and what sort of led to, you know where you ended up.
will do a short version here. I’m sure everybody wants to hear a short version. Well might. Yeah, my name is Todd Zalkins. And, you know, I’m thankful to be in recovery. The program, a 12 step program of recovery saved my life. I have a sobriety date of February 17 2007. And every day, those sober days I’ve had is because of something a lot bigger than me and a wonderful group of men who else saved my life and decided to do a couple of things around here in order to get it to keep it so I’m a little bit about my background. You know, I grew up here in Long Beach, California, little, little area called Belmont Shore, and it was one of those communities where, you know, most of us grew up surfing and really into like, punk
Rock music and backyard parties kind of dominated our landscape and you know some of my closest friends are some of the best musicians from around this area there’s just a ton of them so you know cake parties and surfing and chasing girls was just that was what we did and and it started out innocent you know as far as you know the the from the drinking perspective but boy boy around the corner were some things that that were much heavier and much more life threatening to me as time moved on.
I you saw me Jordan, just out of curiosity, we talked more about the story here what it was like growing up here and then what I got into what almost killed me. What do you want to talk to me? Yeah, that that’d be perfect. You know, like the if if say it were like a 12 step meeting and you’re given the experience, strength and hope, touch on you know, I mean, your story is one of those where it’s just like
Okay, what crazy part
will will you? Will you touch on but basically, whatever, whatever you would be comfortable sharing about just, you know growing up and what you guys started getting into and things like that. Okay, yeah, I’ll treat it just like that then First off, but for those of those who may be watching right now and listening later if you’re new to recovery, I want to welcome you. And I want you want you guys to know that recovery is possible. Thank goodness there’s lots of examples for us who are who are sick with with alcoholism and drug addiction and there’s a lot of people have come before us who can help pave the way to help us live differently. So if you’re struggling, there is help out there and I’ll certainly give you my contact information. You just want to talk or chat by email. It’s all good. But you know, I as I mentioned before, on the front end here, I grew up in Long Beach. I’m the
I’m a product of a really good
gnarly alcoholic father he was six foot four he box in the Marine Corps and he to grew up in Long Beach and, and, you know, with my dad, I just I never knew what I was going to get. I often say it was either a hug or a left hook. You know, and and I’ve often said that that left hook that I would get as a kid, it wouldn’t just hurt at the moment it hurt for years. The lasting impression that that type of fear that that occurs on a young person or for a young person is something that it’s tough to measure, but I’m sure that there’s some people who can probably relate. So I found myself as a young boy
as a young boy wanting really everyone to like me. I was I was certainly a class clown. And I’d like to consider or believe I’ve got a decent sense of humor, but I I really did want everybody to like me and
I could gel into any crowd and
Just alcohol certainly became that great persuader. And it allows one to be chameleon, like whether it’s the preppy upbeat parties or the parties where I mostly love, which is where the bunkers were, and the music scene and so I could adapt to anything. But I took my first drink. I was pretty young, I guess I could call it my first drink. My dad, my dad left my mom. And when I was seven, my older brother was 10. And he would pick us up when he would show up, he’d have a tall boy between his lap and he was living down the road and place called Huntington Harbor, which is this little beach town about 15 minutes south of Long Beach. And so when he would show up, which, by the way, it was often, I now know that to be a byproduct of alcoholism, that we’re not really present for people that we love when we’re in the disease, but so I get a big part of this the Schlitz tall boy or maybe a tomboy, you know, I’m like seven, you know, we go to his house and he loves
watch football the weekends and so I’d bring him beers he ultimately would pass out I would keep drinking his beers.
But I really wouldn’t consider that my first drunk my first drunken experience I was with my buddy George Andrew, may he rest in peace George and I were playing Little League Baseball we saw the the cool older dudes in this park man playing basketball and that all these hot chicks and they’re drinking this this keg beer and then these big cops they invited us over our uniforms are all dirty and and shit like that are like yeah, we’ll go over there and hang out you know i mean these are the guys are six seven years older and when you’re you know 12 these are like men you know that i big scary dudes, but I was a member. It’s like, they were the best surfers in town and they had the prettiest ladies and it’s like, Man, what are they doing? So next thing you know, George and I have about an hour and a half later we awaken this little park across the street we had thrown up over both of you from all over the place. Over
Each Other literally we’re all muddy and dirty and look like look like shit. And I remember to this day simultaneously we looked at each other we said man that was killer
with you This is great. Isn’t this great man and and to the people who are who are not alcoholic, they’re like, I would never do that again. And for for a punk like me it was like, Okay, let’s see, let’s do this again. And so I’d like to say that pretty much at that particular time that the switch for alcoholism was turned on. And I wasn’t a daily drinker at that age, certainly a big drinker. right around the corner in high school. You know, this this area was just dominated by it’s just a little beach town with all sorts of people have a backyard keg parties, and that’s what we did all the time. And it was very normal. It was there was nothing out of the ordinary about it.
My my mother had remarried and I can remember this one thing
happened I was 17 and I had been drinking I came home and and I always had a really early curfew was one of my primary resentments as a kid. I was like shit, I gotta be home like at 10:30am I, like 17. Everyone gets down to one in the morning but I get home and I got home in this particular instance in my step dad just lose. Have you been drinking? I just denied it. I’ve been drinking. And he says you’ve been drinking and he got really upset. He was a gnarly guy to dislike my father. And he slapped me around a bit and something that had never happened before. And with tears in his eyes, he said he looked at me and says I don’t want to lose you.
And when I when I look at times, like
when I think about things like that, it’s like the writing was already on the wall for me.
at such a young age and my my stepfather could tell it was already having a problem with
Alcohol and narcotics that already entered the picture I was I really became involved heavily in cocaine but everything changed in the in the late 80s when I was going to college in San Diego and the hurt my back and you know, this is the pill epidemic or the opioid epidemic wasn’t even being discussed at the time. I was prescribed Vicodin had this gnarly back surgery, and I fell in love with that drug, and it graduated to Norco. And then next, you know, I have multiple doctors and then I was introduced to oxy cotton and I was I was addicted to prescription painkillers for almost 17 years. And I don’t want to get too long winded on the problem here. But
along the way, one of the things that that what I know now is that you know, when when when drugs and alcohol are working, even though it’s a problem to people who are seeing it clearly on the outside. For a guy like myself if I’m getting the effect, and that’s produced by drugs and alcohol. It’s very difficult.
you to tell me up a problem. or excuse me, you can tell me, it’s just very difficult for me to take any action. And people, you know, there have been so many times where people, they will say, here are some black and white facts. And this is why I’ve come to the conclusion that you have a problem and I am telling you this because I love you. And I know for myself, my immediate defense was, you’re wrong or you can’t hang you. You don’t understand. I never I never even accepted that statement. Were you were you consciously aware that there was a problem? Or were you just sort of in that denial state? You know,
I always push I’m an extremist for sure. And so there was nothing casual about the way I drank or use. I wasn’t even one of these people. You know, they talk about this definition of insanity is repeating the same things over and over and expecting different results. I call bullshit on that man. For me personally, I I always knew
That when I drank what I was that it was going to end up just thrashed. I was never predicting a different result. In fact, I wanted to take it to, you know, as far as I could and so, you know, to kind of piggyback on what you just said, you know, people if there were a call, call you out on a problem, or this is an issue. My first thing is just stick it up your ass.
You know, f you, man. I didn’t want to hear it. However, alone, left alone.
Long enough especially I’d be like I I have an issue, man. But I just wasn’t there was no readiness. There was no readiness and certainly no willingness to to want to approach or broach the subject which certainly became life threatening for me later on.
So what was the catalyst that made you decide I need to do something? Yeah, I made two very weak attempts.
Prior to 2007 to get I wanted to get physically detoxed off of the painkillers, I just never wanted to touch painkillers again, I just, I just couldn’t get off of those damn things and the first two times if you want to call it rehab or detoxing and I laughed early against medical advice because the discomfort for me was so gnarly was so it was so indescribably
uncomfortable that I just left with my hospital bracelet and go straight to the dealers or whether it’s coke dealer pill dealer, I had to get everything that I had to get and just get back on that us. But in in, in towards the back end of 2006 I had really had lost I lost my mind. And something was seriously frying upstairs in my brain. And
a couple months later I was I was starting to see people behind the back of my home and these bushes. They weren’t even there. I was delusional. I was under total cocaine psychosis the opioids and completely fractured my my brain
And I couldn’t even conjugate sentences very well I couldn’t speak. I couldn’t speak articulately. You know, and and so one of the things that stands out for me was a moment where when I was having the seeing some guy in a bush who I thought wanted to kill me and I call the police and the second story window, my bedroom there, they’re like, we want to come talk to you. So there’s nobody here. I said, No, that’s okay. And I remember just crumbling to my knees crumbling on my, I went downstairs in my kitchen area on the tile floor and just was like, God, I, I don’t know what I’m doing. And I sure as hell don’t know how to get I don’t know how to help myself. That was the moment I knew that I needed to do something.
And I did not want my mother to get a phone call that her son had died from an overdose or from this disease. And to further that, I’m also convinced that people do die of broken hearts. And I think that if I would have died that way,
That my mother quite possibly could have died from a broken heart is we have a very special relationship.
So yeah, so on February 16 of 2007 I, I somehow managed to drive my car to a hospital in South Laguna Beach, brought them jars and jars of pills that I still had, I just I was just, I was inconsolable. I just could barely talk and handed them over all this shit. And I said that I’m dying from this. They said, that’s clear.
That is obvious. And that was my start. So my sobriety date was the following day, when you start to get sober. Is it an easy path for you? Or is there a lot of? Well, let’s Yeah, I’ll gladly touch on you know, my first year of recovery was was the most terrifying year of my life and to give the people who are listening or watching a snapshot I I did not sleep for 44 days. I was on you know, those
For a great deal those years of being addicted to the opioids, a lot of it was synthetic and I was on a great deal of fentanyl and the oxy cotton, the big 80 milligram pills, it’s very slow to to leave your system. And so my story is, is that I desperately wanted to sleep my body was just in shambles, but my mind would not slow down. So
it was absolutely terrifying for me, I just tossed and turned and just clobbered for the first few months of my sobriety, and I shook physically for almost nine months. I like you would think I’d be having a stroke. I was walking down the street.
What you know, I don’t think recovery that in life might the physical symptoms that I experienced, were very, very intense and and that’s what prompted me to write my memoir dying for triplicate, not because I wanted so much attention, but I had I felt this passion of helping others and my treating physicians and that people have got to hear the story because he had never seen anything like it.
gratefully speaking that the book has helped several thousand people find recovery. When you wrote that book, it wasn’t a like you said it wasn’t about getting attention. Or look at how crazy My story is that I went harder than everybody else. This was more of just a kind of reflection and you know you that you can help people with it. What’s going through your mind when you decided to start writing the book? Well, actually, I mean, I just started writing and I wrote the damn thing in 18 months sober and I had very little recovery in me. Certainly very little spirituality it was more about is more about the terror that we go through while addicted. And that’s, that’s why it has spoken to so many people who, who suffered with this disease.
I just I told the truth, right, wrong or indifferent. I told that the fucking truth and the truth sometimes sir, I’d say 95% of the people have gotten something out of it. You’re going to have people who bash you or want to do whatever and at the end of the day
I have hundreds of emails from moms and from people who read the book on, you know, my kid found treatment because those are, you know, some dude going, dude, I got six months sober because I felt like because you did it I could. That is what is all about. It’s kind of like,
you know, it’s funny in our rooms. It’s like anonymity is important. By the way, if you mentioned at the top of the show, I mentioned that I’m a proud member of a of a 12 step program. I’m not going to tell you which one it is, by way of, I’ll tell you privately, how about this. It’s the oldest one that exists.
But that’s not breaking tradition. And so I was always in a lot of fear when I wrote the book, Andrew, I was, you know, of course, I still have that mind of what are people going to think and all that stuff at the end of the day? It’s it’s been nothing but a positive. But yeah, it’s it’s been out for a handful of years now. And it’s it’s been read by a lot of people who I think needed to read it when they needed to read it.
Yeah, and I want to rewind a little bit. Why don’t you tell us a bit about the Long Beach music scene in the 80s 90s? And who you were running with and what was going on back then. So I think that’s a really cool perspective of even though, you know, at this point in the story, you’ve gotten sober, but if we rewind a bit to what was going on back then I think that’s a really, really interesting piece of your life. Oh, okay. Well, for sure. I mean, you know, we had a thriving scene here in Long Beach. And, and, and the band that I’ve, that I really fell into and fell in love with, at a very young age was called the falling idols. And that was a local punk band that, you know, today, two of those members are in much bigger bands. One of them’s a singer of a vandals, a world renowned punk band and then the bass players of bass player for penny wise today, and you probably heard of those bands.
You know, started with the following idols.
But there were so many other bands this area you know, we had, we have people like the vandals and secret hate and Rhino 39 and texts and a horse heads and these amazing players and crazy people. But, you know,
what came about later on was some guys that I grew up with formed a band called sublime. And a lot of people have a lot of people love their music, and I don’t know if you’ve heard of the band before but
vaguely familiar. vaguely. Okay, that’s good. So
are you a fan of the band? Yeah. Right on, um, you know, I had some of my best times with those guys with bud, bud, Eric and Brad and, and certainly some of the most heartbreaking times you know, it’s, it was a wild ride, watching them grow into what was going to become you know, a world renowned band. And for those of you lot of people know the story that Brad and all died on. Maybe
25th 1996 of a heroin overdose. And I was up in San Francisco when this happened. I wasn’t in the room, but I had just dropped him off after their last show. And, to my knowledge, I was the last person he tried to call it before he died. And I wasn’t able to wake up.
And yet
it disturbed me for many, many years. And my,
my, the progression of my disease, were in the darker and darker places it ate me alive because I didn’t have any coping skills. And we had lost a guy that that we cared deeply for, and we loved a lot. And, you know, one week prior to that we were at his wedding, one week prior, and he’s dead A week later, and he leaves behind, you know, this beautiful wife and had a baby boy named Jacob. But there’s a lot of good stuff to the story too much, much later. You know, Jacob was only 10 or 11 months old when he when Brad passed. So
You know, I had some incredibly insane times with them I mean, going all over the place with spending time with those guys on tour and I was in a bunch of their music videos but
if you haven’t seen it that the date rate date rape is a song that broke them on karaoke and bled out to the rest of the country and
the band was on tour they asked me if I wanted to start the video and I was like, Yeah, what the hell so we did the video was that when when you put the pieces together when I realized that that was you in it? Yes. Have you seen the video I’ve seen the video
went out Yeah, but describe what happens in the video. what’s what’s what’s what’s really funny, if you want to call it funny, but you know the the legendary buzzkill Ron Jeremy is, is not only the judge of the film, but he’s also the guy who rapes me in jail because the song is not about promoting date rape. It’s actually it’s an upbeat song.
But the underlying message is, is that there are some terrible consequences as a result of doing such a thing. And so I don’t just to be very clear, I don’t take that subject matter lightly at all but the but the song is on the lighter side. It’s a it’s a fun sounding song. And that’s a song that broke them. And they rarely even played it. So yeah, so I was in that video, it was absolutely insane and, and I was certainly not close to getting sober yet. I think we filmed that in 1995.
But But yeah, so you know, the the scene was just rich with a with a pretty, you know, a wealthy cast of characters who were who like to push the envelope the way I did, and I can tell you that one of the things that when doing neighbor, one of the things that I really loved about the guys and Sublime is that very, very few rules applied. And that fit fits fits for a guy like me just perfectly. It’s like, whatever, wherever we’re going if it’s not bolted down, we’re fucking
Taking it your girls, which the girls are coming with us. And whoever’s, you know, whoever’s left behind on the floor bleeding so be
so it was literally the sex drugs and rock and roll.
Oh my god to the empty Yeah, yeah and that was even before they were super famous gotta could even imagine what was I’ve been told the story a lot of people a few people know about it but Brad said this about nine months before he passed he said he said he’s any man he goes you have your pilot’s license, I go pilot’s license, I’m lucky to be able drive a car, you know, I’m lucky I can just drive the streets of California. He goes because when we make it big, I want us to be like Led Zeppelin and I want you to fly the 747 work and it was serious. And I was like, wait a minute. You want me to fly the plane that first and foremost Who the hell is gonna even allow me to fly and I’m not going to get on a plane. Right But used to be a running joke because
Maybe I could actually I can only imagine what things would have been like if we had an airplane running around and absolutely burning every village.
The insanity of you guys just on private jets on top of all the other craziness taking it to that next level. So you had touched on, Brad, Brad left behind his new wife and son, but you stayed in touch with them later on down the road. You want to get into what that relationship turned into? Well, I was always I was always had a very good kinship and a friendship with with Brad’s Father Jim known as Papa know. So Papa know and I’ve spent a great deal of time together over the last few decades. And so my relationship with him. To me he’s very much like a father figure. He’s one of the most respected men that in Long Beach here that you know, from my crew, we
We all have a great deal of respect and love and admiration for him as a, as a father as a businessman as just as a man who, who walks, walks the walk and talk the talk. He’s just an honest, good guy. And so with a huge heart, Jacob, when Jacob was a baby, he was living with his mother Troy down in San Diego, and I would see him sparingly I would definitely make the drive down to see him as he was growing up. But, you know, we all had our own lives, too. You know, I, you know, I was in a band I was in I was doing my shit up and in Long Beach San Clemente. I had a home in San Clemente, which is the furthest Southern it’s the southern most Little Town in South Orange County before you get to San Diego. So I was running a muck there and certainly just insane and so you know, some years you drift apart and stuff like that, but I was still relatively connected with my crew here in Long Beach.
Until my disease progressed, then I was very isolated, really isolated man for not just a couple weekends, a long time, Jacob kind of followed the path of his dad not apples to apples, but he ran into trouble as well. And didn’t you have some sort of some sort of impact on his life as well? Well, as you know, as he grew into a, you know, he started drinking at a young age and, and so, in time, you know, he developed that thing called alcoholism, you know, as well as, you know, addiction qualities as well. And so,
later on down the road, you fast forward a bunch of years me I ended up becoming the intervention work found me I was like, Oh, yeah, I’m sober. I’m gonna go to work for a treatment center.
I’ve never worked for a treatment center. That is a lot of people’s path. It’s a lot of people’s paths. And I’ve seen too many people make that their recovery. I’ve also seen them fall
And, and get her I, I’ve always put my my sobriety my own personal recovery is is is the first most important thing to me I still go to the low side five but usually the six to eight meetings a week still at 12 years and four months of sobriety I, I have this disease just as much today as a day that I came in I needed just as much. You’re taking that air quote medicine continually and one of the things that someone in in my circle had said, he says, you know, 12 step recovery, it’s not something that it worked and you got better. It is. It is working in my life. So he equates it to. He does. He’s a property manager. And he was like, they had hired a security guard in crime went down. And they were like, well, we can’t afford to keep paying this security guard and he was and crimes down so we don’t really need one and he’s like
It is working.
It worked and recovery it’s the same way. I really I can appreciate that for sure. You know, I’ve we’ve all seen it sounds like you’ve been around long enough to or maybe even longer than me but it’s just if you stick around the rooms of recovery long enough we see people who get a good life back. And and they D prioritize or re prioritize what’s most important. And so most people end up either dead or they’re out there drinking and then loaded again and they ended up coming back and and that scares me to pieces I haven’t you know, I’m thankful that hasn’t been my story at all. Up to this point. I haven’t drifted. I haven’t been like, oh, I’ll give it a month off. Dude, I get crazy and 14 hours, like, not not not the obsession about drinking or getting loaded, but I get emotionally displaced quite easily. And it’s just how I am wired. And so being amongst people like you and, you know, in the rooms of recovery worldwide, so long as I’m in one of those
Rose, I get more centered and I get closer to something much bigger than myself quickly. And I need it. I tend to find that when when I just sit down and listen at times it it just happens to be and call it coincidence for x years in a row over and over. But whenever I’m going through something, and I sit down in one of those rooms and I just listen, I always end up hearing the exact thing a that I don’t want to hear, and then be that I need to hear. And, you know, then I’m faced with do I do I act on this? Do I just keep that to myself and be like ha you said exactly. Because usually it’s something wrong with actually not even sometimes it’s always something wrong with me either internally, or something going on in my life. I have some sort of expectation on
Someone or something to act a certain way. And invariably every time and I own I own several companies and i’ll i’ll get upset with an employee. And then I just come back around to Well, what was my part in it, which I hate in 12 separate? My brain is now wired that way that I take accountability and responsibility for all the things that I’m not happy with, but I’ll be upset with someone. What’s this person doing at work there? You know, wasting money and wages, and all these things and it’s like, Well, have you clearly defined the expectations of the job or the role that they have? And it’s like, no, they should read my mind. And when that’s my my reasoning for being upset was I wanted it ultimately falls on me and as a sober man, and as a business owner and all these different things. Everything does rise and fall on my shoulders, but at the same time, that’s a blessing because
If I am part of the problem, I also have the ability to be part of the solution. And until until I got involved in recovery I just I blamed everybody else it was everyone else’s fault why my life had gone to hell and if you live the way that I lived with the people who I surrounded myself with you would drink the same way that I drank because you don’t even have a choice there’s there’s no alternative when you’re a victim
yeah you know a lot of this has to do with just the way I think my reaction to life and and there’s a classic story that’s my favorite my favorite my favorite pet couple paragraphs and that big book we have it’s about acceptance, whenever I am disturbed, when I am disturbed by find some person, place or thing some fact of my life unacceptable to me. And until I can find acceptance with that person, place or thing I can have no serenity that explains me perfectly.
Absolutely to a tee
So generally speaking, the problem with me is me. Now, if some guy cuts me off and flips me off, how am I spiritual? What’s my spiritual condition? Like in that particular day, I’ve had plenty of moments in sobriety where I have wanted to punch someone in the throat. I haven’t, I can tell you back in the day, I caused a lot of scenes that resulted in in very, very negative results. But I haven’t had to do that. And so, you know, want to come back the same with Jacob. And, you know, I became a family crisis interventionist. I facilitated over 400 of them all over the country of the last nine plus years, and I was trained appropriately. I didn’t just read a book I was taken under the wing of a master interventionists who had over 1000 interventions under under his belt. He said you know, I think that you can really connect well with people who have suffered like you so why don’t you want to give us a shot with me and I did and I, I learned the right way to facilitate intervention and I got myself
certification for drug and alcohol counseling and my licensing and all that stuff. But, you know, whoever would have thought that
I think it was four years ago. So I was eight years sober and I got a call from Jim Nall saying that his grandson Jacob is suffering with this disease. And he goes I, he said, verbatim he goes, I can’t go through it again. I can’t go through it again. And so but it’s a it was one of the most beautiful moments in my life to be able to actually take that call. Where before I wasn’t able to take Brad’s call because he just wanted to talk to a friend. At the time. I don’t know what he didn’t want don’t for me, he had dope. He didn’t want money for me. He had money. He just wanted to talk to someone so it kind of my thing it evens the playing field or the scales or even but being able to help Jacob get clean and sober has been one of the
true bright spots in my life.
And it’s great that you had you know, no one likes the negatives that come along with life and obviously
That was a huge, huge impact on you and all the people in that circle. And I mean, worldwide, I mean that just on the surface level of the music and things like that. I mean, it was it was a huge loss all around. But to be able to have that awareness that, you know, here is that same exact call, and that you now have the skills and ability to not only take that call, but be able to perform the way that I mean you just didn’t have any capacity or capability to handle back then but to be able to take those skills now and apply them and save his life. I mean, that’s effectively what we do when we help other other addicts and alcoholics you are saving a life. Yeah, that’s that’s exactly right. And there is no there is no greater purpose.
And then for us to be able to, you know,
yeah, pass on what was not only given to us. But at the same time we talked we talked about this often passing on what was freely given to us at the same time. I feel an extreme duty, an extreme sense of responsibility that for a new man, I need to be able to look that man in the eye until I tell you what, I love you, man. And I want to see you make some changes. I want to encourage that person to stick around you know, all those hardcore bullshit some of these old fuckers who just sit down and shut up and they don’t want to hear you know what the truth is. We need to hear the new man. In fact, there’s there’s there there there is written text in the book that states meetings are a place for the new man to come share his problems. Okay, now I’m not expecting to hear the solution from a new guy. However, I strongly suggest that someone who is new to share in meetings what’s going on with them because it allows
us to get to know them. And they get to know us shutting up and saying nothing to me is absolutely against a to me a principle of recovery, which is vital, which is transparency, Truth and Honesty amongst people who fucking understand.
And I’m seriously adamant about that man. And not to mention, I mean, if you’re trying to grow something in membership, take, take the recovery aspect out of it, but just just human principle in general, if you have a group and take, again, take the this is saving your life out of the equation, but the people don’t want to show up somewhere and then people say, You’re not welcome here. You can’t participate because you don’t know what you’re talking about. Listen to me, what would be your motivation to want to even go back to get to the point where you can where you can say the end, I mean, there’s there’s things that I’ll I’ll say this to my salesman.
Because sometimes we have these weird situations where things pan out, but statistically majority of the time, it doesn’t work. Like I had this this one guy who worked for me in, in tech, fixing computers, super, super abrasive guy. Really, really just fuck you, fuck you fuck you. But some people absolutely loved it and other people. I had received an email from a customer saying, I am willingly driving 25 miles to go to a competitor, instead of just calling you and having it done remotely because I am frightened that he will be the one that answers the phone. So we eventually got rid of them. But then other people were like, No, no, I love that. And it was like, you know, it was a minority of them. But so sometimes I think people, some people like that they show up and people say Shut up, don’t talk and they keep coming back because they like the pain or whatever it is.
But it’s it’s not the majority, it’s the minority. And I think people, they take things out of context and they say, look, here is that small percentage of the time where it worked. And we just use that confirmation bias that because it worked on this small percentage, that therefore it works all the time every time for these exact types of people but in the macro if you’re trying to you know, something works 80% of the time, the opposite way
Why stop doing it the way that encourages membership and encourages growth, which is ultimately what we’re what we need. Yeah, and you know, and you know, the rooms have evolved to its, you know, the text remains the same but the personnel, the people who are in the rooms, there’s gonna come a point in time, I hate to say it gang, but in certain groups, drugs are going to be a part of almost every
single person’s story in the group, the wild turkey Dre days and just a straight bourbon guys are going to be gone. Eventually. Sorry. It’s just the way you know, drugs are a big part of the story that part of the program where they don’t really talk about that that much, but it’s all a part of us. At the end of the day, you know what man at the other day, there’s groups for everyone everywhere. You know what I mean? You want the hard ass thing that the full Third Reich treatment where you have no say or
I don’t know where those are. But so being a man, I just want people to get sober to live better. I don’t care where you find it. And thank God is everywhere. You know? Yeah. So your book you had touched on you are able to help 10s of thousands of people through just that one thing and now with with the documentary, the long way back, how did that come about? You know,
I was not seeking like, hey, let me go find someone to make a movie about
I was contacted by a gentleman up in Canada, who had produced some films in the science based and learning areas. And he was privy to the epidemic is like your story needs to be told. flew up there a couple of times and we started going to some, some finance raising stages. And it kind of came to find that he wasn’t the right guy to tell the story. But along the road, some investors were like, meet this guy introduced me this guy was attached to some Sundance winning awards. name’s Mike Meeker, and he ended up producing the film and when you talk about uncomfortable, man, I mean, you really go through your mind thinking, Wait a minute, we’re going to let it all hang out here. And for me, there was no other way to tell the story. When I wrote my book. I still hadn’t tackled the demons. I got to talk about this because I don’t care anymore, but
about trauma sustained as a kid, you know, molestation, and having come from up being a victim to a survivor, and I was really
flipping coins on do I reveal that in the film at the end of the day, thank goodness I had grown enough as a grown up enough as a man to be able to share that experience and not worry about being judged. Because it’s all about at the end of the day, I can’t tell you how many people reached out to me going Dude, I was thought I was I’d be this tough guy etc etc. that happened to me as a kid too. And and and I’ve heard a lot of people along the way not molesting but I’ve heard others with my alcoholism because of a lot of the stuff that happened as a kid. So you know the film project in itself it got done in a year usually to take about two years on average to make a feature length we would 6070 hour weeks. We want a couple of awards for Best Documentary Film gratefully speaking and
the the people the orchard owned by Sony put it out and it’s, it’s available on basically every medium except Netflix.
It’s been a really good platform to speak at school.
To speak it, not just treatment centers, but a lot of universities, I go to high schools. So it’s been a really great thing to share with people and give a talk after it’s helped a bunch of people. It’s pretty cool.
And when you’re doing the the speaking gigs at colleges is, is that just something where you’ve been? Was that sort of part of your plan to speak at colleges? Or how did how did that come about?
When when the film came out, I just started getting people asking, you know, we’d love to have you come out and talk and I’ve always enjoyed giving talks about, about getting to the other side. You know, I also do a lot of 12 step talks to but speaking at an institutional levels different, you’re not gonna incorporate too much step talk, etc, because it’s such a foreign thing, but I gotta tell you, I can’t count the times I’ve been pulled aside and someone saying either need help right now. I’ve got a couple people like I was literally going to kill myself this week.
Gonna freakin kill myself. I remember we had a counselor, this one I was in Ohio, that this counselor to take this person over to the student center and they got that person into an institution like that night. I mean, this is real stuff, man. When people are breaking inside, and they’re not, they’re too scared to talk about it. I want to share with anyone who’s listening or watching whatever. It’s okay to talk about. If you’re breaking on the inside. Find someone who you trust someone who will care about what you have to hear, I assure you, there’s people who want to hear from you. Don’t don’t don’t leave because you’re going to be in the wrong person.
I think a lot of it to alcoholics and addicts kind of run into this thought process of I am, I am unique. Nobody else understands the kind of pain that I’m going through because I had this experience and if you had this experience, then you would understand but nobody has this experience and
I think that’s why, you know, when you’re talking about your trauma that so many people, I mean, it’s one of those things that it’s not, you’re not supposed to talk about it and having that guilt and shame trapped inside of you. And I believe you had said in the documentary that you had tried sharing it with people and they said they didn’t believe you. Was that part of the case also? Yeah, it’s what yeah, I shared it with my father. I was I was really young, I was only like nine years old. And and it happened again, I was very blanket statement because I was actually affected several times over a two year period as a general statement about it. So my father didn’t believe me. And so what that did to me to was it instill this, I’m really, really, really against authority. I’m really against it and I’m going to grow up one day, and I did and people will try to tell me what to do would not get the answer. They were looking for.
You know, it sets the stage, it shapes you and crafts you into something, I didn’t become a monster, by the way. In fact, I became I was a person who if I ever saw person getting picked on, I would lose my mind, you know, getting bullied or, you know, I was kind of like want to be like the Superman to help people, you know,
actively that’s that’s what has happened with the content that you’ve put out and with your work in, in doing interventions and things like that. I mean, that is sticking up for the person that is just suffering. And I know when I was at the end of my rope, and you know, I just needed a DUI and a judge to tell me that I needed help. But for all the times when people you know, it felt like family and friends were ganging up on me when I know now in retrospect, they were just trying to help but I felt like the guy who was just a big
Dumb the entire time because that’s what my brain told me. I was a victim. I was the underdog. I, I didn’t have anyone on my side. Yeah, that’s that’s a really good point. I, Andrew because, you know, my my take on on a lot of this is is that the person who is in the disease is truly not seeing the world clearly. And there’s people you know, obviously in your instance and a mind to where they’re observing you, me and like this, you are not right. They are seeing things much more much more clearly. And they see something that is either a crisis or situation that you got that something has to change. And so it’s getting you know, that’s why I love about the work is you always get this loving, determined group of people who is hell bent on saving their loved ones life. And so it’s essentially this emotional management of chess pieces that you’re dealing with with these people and personnel to get this person motivated to at least try
A change. And so it’s been rewarding work. It’s very taxing for me, I take it. You know, I do take it very, very seriously. I think you have to.
Yeah, I don’t think that’s the kind of job that you can just nine to five punch the clock and just
know you can’t you can’t do back to back interventions like yeah, there has to be breathing space between each one. I’ve made that mistake on two occasions and I paid for it dearly, becoming very off center, very,
not 100%. And so you have to catch up, get back into your own recovery, do some self care and get yourself back on that beam allow you to be more functional, but at least you have the awareness that you you made the mistake in the past you reflected on it and moving forward. You’re not just beating your head against the wall trying to do that insanity definition of the same thing expecting different results and when we can refer
Live on the mistakes that we’ve made, and then make decisions on the future, doing, doing the next right move, you know, this, this can apply for recovery, it can apply to business. I know when when we were growing the company and it was like, well, I just hired a bunch of random people, and they all happened to work out wonderfully. And so then my mentality was, we should always hire just random people. And it blowing up in my face that we kept having these terrible employees that would show up for like a day or two and quit. We had people they were in now I the company, everybody’s sober. But
we had people like nodding out at their desk, and it was just like, what is this? And I was like, well, maybe we should, maybe we should just add like, one step like one ounce of maybe just make sure that this person kind of has some of the same ideas.
But we could have kept going the same way. And the unfortunate thing in businesses, you know, if if I have 20 salesman and they’re all mediocre, we’re still probably making more money than we would if we had three people that were stellar. So it’s, it’s learning to sacrifice more money, which isn’t the ultimate scoreboard but doing the right thing. And knowing that you’re doing the right thing sticking behind it, even when you don’t get that financial reward for it. And so I don’t know how the the payment structure works in interventions. I would assume that if you did two in a day, you would get paid twice as much is that accurate? Or is it
Yeah, that would be impossible to do two in a day. I think I’d be hanging from a tree.
Just couldn’t do it. But yeah, I follow you. Yeah. So so in wrapping up what what what piece of advice would you give to somebody who is struggling with addiction looking to get out what would be the
Next best move for them to take
a look. The first thing that I want to say to anyone out there who’s suffering is that
it’s very difficult to do it alone. I don’t suggest it. That there. There’s a lot of people out there who want a professional level first off to get you started, specialize in getting you stabilized. That’s what treatments about to me. You don’t just go to treatment and you emerge and you’re good to go the rest of your life like it’s a great place to be safe for a while. There’s a lot of good ones a lot of bad ones, but there’s a lot of good places out there. People who know what they’re doing to get you started and and that it can be done but it’s just going to focus on the none of it’s done alone. And and if you felt alone, I’m sure you have if you’re suffering, that it’s a huge relief to know that you don’t have to be alone again. So I would encourage you to reach out and just it’s okay to say hi breaking man. I need some help. There’s nothing wrong with that.
One other thing that I had heard you you spoke about with.
I think it was in a David about Bradley’s house. Uh huh. You want to touch on that a bit? I think that’s that’s an incredible thing that you guys are putting together. Yeah, for sure if I could just touch on two quick things a Bradley’s house is is essentially under what’s called the no Family Foundation. And it’s something I co founded with Brad’s dad. We are, it’s a fully fully approved 501 c three company that’s nonprofit.
We are geared towards creating the first treatment center that’s kind which is to to help musicians who are suffering with substance use disorder who are broken, don’t have the financial means to get well. And so the residents will be called Bradley’s house. We’re still in the fundraising stage for it. And so it’s something that we’re very excited about getting actually the doors open which God willing, it will happen over the next year. The The other thing I want
Coming up really quick is I’m working on a project, it’s called the higher ground experience. And it’s an experiential learning platform for kids, for young people to reach them before before they start using before they start drinking. And it’s an incentivize learning program that we’re currently in the finance raising stage for which is going to have significant impact on helping young people to make the right decisions in peer pressure situations. So check it out, Andrew and you can go to higher ground experience calm, and we expect to help some kids avoid overdose and funerals.
That’s such a great cause. And I think it’s, it’s cool with
with the idea that you know, like the the niche down on the musicians with Bradley’s house where it’s,
we feel that no one else can understand exactly what we’re going through and for I mean, cool.
Better to be running this organization than people who have been directly involved in, in addiction and in the music scene and knowing that there’s the little, the little differences here and there that it’s not always going to be apples to apples. And that’s kind of what I was hoping to accomplish with the podcast was you can go to 12 step meeting and find people that have your same vice. However, for for myself, it was kind of scratching my own itch of I want to be not only with just the people in the rooms, but and it doesn’t have to just be people who are also in 12 step recovery, just people who are sober, you know, whatever method works for you works for you, but to to be able to network and meet with people that are doing big things that you can always just
walk into a room and find someone who is starting 501 c three and getting getting funding and all these things. So it’s really cool. And I really appreciate you taking the time and letting us letting us in on you know your story and the things you’ve been through and the triumphs and the wins and the losses. And tada in wrapping up, how can people find you and get more information? Thanks for asking. You can go to my website, it’s Todd Vulcans calm, t odd, z al kiss. Todd’s all calm. Also have a toll free number 888-604-7370. And I want to say one more thing to the first off. Thank you, Andrew for having me. I want to finish with for anyone out there who’s wondering if recovery is worth it. It is and if I didn’t have a joyful, meaningful existence in sobriety, I bail
would have failed a long time ago despite what life has thrown at me. So if you’re wondering can first off Yes, you can get there takes take some stuff takes a little bit of work, but I assure you that if you’re sick of it sick of it all, man, this is a lot better. It’s a lot better. Yeah, people don’t don’t end up there on accident, but the people that stay it was intentional. And that’s like that.
It’s not a, it’s not something that that just comes easy. It’s like you said with treatment, a lot of people think it’s like a 30 day thing, kind of like get surgery and then and then you’re fixed. It’s it’s just laying down the framework, get the foundation, but unfortunately, there’s work to be done ahead and it’s not going to just take one month to fix everything. It is a thing that it works, as long as you continue doing the things that cause
It to work and sometimes we we start taking credit for things that aren’t necessarily our doings but it’s it’s been great talking with you, Todd and
everyone who’s listening. Check out Todd and all the things that he’s been doing the long way back great documentary really, really digs into his story, the book, dying for triplicate all all the things that he’s doing it’s, it’s so great to to have this experience with you to have you share with the audience. And have a great day. Thank you so much for being and thanks, everyone for listening. Thanks for having me, Andrew. It’s been a pleasure man.

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