Marina del Rey resident Bob Timmins, an addiction specialist who helped a long list of celebrities battle their alcohol and chemical dependencies, died earlier this month of respiratory failure after having battled chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder for several years, according to a friend. He was 61.
Timmins was involved in the world of recovery from addiction, where he worked for over 30 years.
He battled his own addiction to drugs and alcohol and became clean over 32 years ago, said Timmins’ close friend Jeff McFarland.
The son of a police officer-father and a mother who left home when he was just nine, Timmins became a heroin addict before he was even a teen, McFarland said.
A high school dropout, Timmins became homeless and spent time living on the streets of downtown Los Angeles’s Skid Row and served time in prison for armed robbery.
After Timmins spent much of his 20s in prison, a public defender helped him turn his life around by recommending that he begin a program of recovery. He did just that — and went on to contribute much to the battle against drug and alcohol addiction.
As an addiction specialist, Timmins worked with partner Sheila Balkan, a criminologist who specializes in sentencing evaluations and reports, for over 25 years.
“It’s a big loss for me,” said Balkan. “Bob was an extraordinary person. He saved thousands and thousands of people’s lives. Because of Bob’s own background — a traumatic childhood, he had suffered from heroin addiction himself and had spent time in prison — he could relate to anybody.”
“He was very nonjudgmental,” Balkan recalls. “He taught me a lot about human behavior. He just knew more about substance abuse than anybody else — he knew it inside out.”
Balkan fondly remembers Timmins’ sense of humor and said he really just wanted to help people “through the dark side and into the light.”
Timmins’ clients included a number of well-known musicians and other celebrities as well as people from all walks of life.
He helped McFarland, now an attorney, overcome addiction about 25 years ago, when McFarland was just 18.
“He’d been my best friend ever since,” said McFarland. “He was the best man at my wedding, the godfather of my children. We spoke to each other daily. He helped a lot of people in all walks of life, often for free. I miss him.”
Timmins was said to have been instrumental in setting up the first drug courts in the United States — specialized courts that handle cases of offenders who abuse addictive substances and offer alternatives to jail sentences, including treatment.
“A big part of his practice was helping people with alternative sentences for drug- and alcohol-related crimes,” McFarland said.
He also was instrumental in the creation of MusicCares — established in 1989 by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences — which provides financial, medical and personal assistance to musicians, including those struggling from addiction.
“Bob was very compassionate and understanding,” recalls McFarland. “He never gave up on anybody. And he helped people for the joy he got from helping people, not for the money. He often forgot to bill people for his time. He was a character.”
Timmins also served on the Santa Monica-based CLARE Foundation board of directors for seven years up until his death.
“He was directly responsible for getting me into recovery 19 years ago,” said CLARE executive director Nicholas Vrataric. “Kicking and screaming, he brought me in [for help].”
Vrataric said that he will miss Timmins’ “dedication, his kindness and his commitment to recovery.”
“He was a sweet, gentle, very patient man,” Vrataric said. “His death is a big loss for recovery, for CLARE and for me personally.”
Timmins is survived by a nephew, Bryan Timmins, and a great-niece, Isabel.