Bob Timmins, an addiction specialist who is credited with salvaging the lives of a long list of celebrity drug users by steering them onto the path of sobriety and helping them stay there, died of respiratory failure in 2008 at his home in Marina del Rey after battling years of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. He was 61.[i] Though little known by the public at large, Timmins was a titan in the world of recovery coaching.
Some of his clients — members of the bands Red Hot Chili Peppers, Mötley Crüe and Aerosmith — have spoken publicly about Timmins’ role in helping them battle drug abuse. But most celebrities preferred anonymity, a request Timmins took pride in honoring. “Bob has helped everyone from the owners of sports franchises to heads of movie studios to Grammy-winning, internationally known music idols . . . as well as the most down and out homeless person who comes to him for help,” said Michael Nasatir, a friend, and a criminal defense attorney in Santa Monica, who worked with Timmins early in his career.
What Timmins knew about drug abuse, recovery and redemption was learned from experience.
Robert Wayne Timmins was born in Los Angeles on Sept. 27, 1946, the son of a police officer. His mother suffered from paranoid schizophrenia, and when Bob was 9 years old, she attempted to murder him. Timmins was placed in foster care, by ninth grade he lived on the streets, was a heroin junky, and as a convicted felon, he spent time in San Quentin. It was in San Quentin that Timmins met Danny Trajo, they were cell mates and gang members in a white supremacy gang there. These two were familiar with all forms of prison violence. Yet, it was Trajo that introduced Bob to the 12 step rooms. When Trajo left San Quentin, he told Timmins to look him up after his release. Four years later, expecting to start-up exactly where he had left off before entering San Quentin, Timmins showed up at Trajo’s doorstep. Danny Trajo took him to his house, and offered him a spare bedroom to stay in. When Timmins said “Come on, let’s do some things…” in response, Trajo took him to a 12-step meeting. Trajo introduced him to Eddie, his first sponsor, and the rest, let’s say is history. Bob Timmins credits Trajo and Eddie, with turning his life around. Eddie was Timmins’ sponsor until Eddie died with 47 years of sobriety. Timmins said “If I didn’t get a sponsor and jump into recovery, I wasn’t going to stay long enough to get anything.” [ii]
In the years that followed, Timmins helped found and was involved with several organizations, including the CLARE Foundation, Cinco Swim Sober Living Home, recovery centers, Impact House and Cri-HELP in Los Angeles as well as the National Association of Drug Court Professionals. Early in his career he began working with troubled youths, including a young Jeff McFarland.
“I met him when he worked at a rehab hospital I was in,” said McFarland, who is now an attorney. “I was a 19-year-old drug addict and criminal, and he helped me turn things around. He had instant credibility. When you spoke to him, you knew that he had lived the life that you live. And he understood.” Today, McFarland is the chair of The Timmins Foundation.[iii] The Timmins Foundation is a nonprofit organization established in memory of Bob Timmins, whose work changed Jeff McFarland’s and countless other young people’s lives. The Timmins Foundation supports a “Bob Timmins Bed” that provides beds for 365 days of impatient treatment or residence at a sober living environment for a year to clients that are unable to afford the entire cost on their own,. The Timmins Foundation seeks to provide financial support for the early intervention and treatment of substance abuse -which Bob knew could prove to be the difference between a life well-lived and a life wasted- by going into the community, seeking out young adults in need of treatment and building a sense of purpose for young adults in post-treatment recovery.[iv]
In courts across the nation, Timmins was an expert witness and a consultant in the development of treatment plans for addiction-related offenders. He assessed drug addicts before they went to trial, he advised them and suggested to the judge to place them into treatment instead of incarceration. Judges and lawyers paid Timmins for his expertise in selecting a proper program for a defendant, “but the amount we paid him was a joke compared to what he did,” said Bernard Kamins, who served as a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge from 1985 to 2007 and worked with Timmins in the California Drug Court system. “Here’s this guy who for $150 would get somebody straightened out. . . . He knew the right places to put people, and he gave them two things: hope and motivation. As a judge I couldn’t do that,” Kamins said. Timmins steered clients to 12-step meetings and helped them find sponsors. But Timmins did more, drawing from the people he knew and had helped in the past, he could put an addict in contact with a youth homeless shelter, admit them into a treatment center at no cost, introduce them to the president of a recording studio or aid in their admission into USC. Timmins was that type of guy.
In the entertainment industry, Timmins influenced the way recording labels treat artists by requesting amenities such as “safe harbor rooms”: hospitality suites that are clean of drugs and alcohol. In the entertainment industry, drugs and alcohol were given freely to the artists to stimulate their creativity and as perks for their performance. As a recovering entertainer this was a very dangerous environment to be in, Bob changed this dynamic in the industry. After the 1995 death of Shannon Hoon of the group Blind Melon from a drug overdose, Michael Greene, president and CEO of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences announced the first industry wide symposium on the subject of drugs in rock and asked Bob Timmins to help. Beside “safe harbor rooms” and contractual guidelines that advocate sobriety, the symposium and Grammy.org helped Timmins and Howard Owens start the MusiCares Foundation, and MAP, the Musician’s Assistance Program, which provide assistance to musicians, including those suffering from addiction. MusiCares provides a safety net of critical assistance; services and resources that will cover a wide range of financial, medical and personal emergencies for music people in times of need. MusiCares celebrates 20 years in 2013.
Working with celebrities did not leave Timmins star-struck, in a 1991 article in GQ magazine; he said
“I see them as human beings first. I see them in their pain and try to help them through a suicide attempt or whatever’s going on,”[v] Bob Timmins was one of the most influential foundational thinkers in recovery coaching, developing the concepts of sober companionship, recovery coaching and legal services coaching. Through the years he tirelessly helped rock star, millionaire or skid row addict with the same compassion and conviction, whether he was compensated handsomely or graced with a humble handshake and a thank you. Bob was a milestone in the recovery coaching movement.
Hear Bob Timmin’s AA Story, this is a must hear:
This is the second part of the third chapter of “Guide to Coaching People in Recovery from Addiction” a book written by Melissa Killeen and available as an eBook in January 2013 on Amazon.com
Part Three of Chapter Three: “Foundational Thinkers…” will be posted next week.
[ii] Christopher Kennedy Lawford “Moments of Clarity: Voices from the Front Lines of Addiction”, Harper Collins NY
[iv] The Timmins Foundation, 865 S. Figueroa St., 10th Floor, Los Angeles, CA 90017. http://timminsfoundation.wordpress.com/2008/12/20/the-timmins-foundation/