Kim passed away yesterday. This isn't as much about him as it is about me. About the impact he had on my life, about how I got to where I am today.
On New Years Eve of 1989 I went out for what turned into my last round of fall-down-drunk partying. At least my last round to date. It was not any different then any other night, you know, in my life every evening was New Years Eve. A few days later when the fog cleared, a very nice judge from the Criminal Court of the City of New York suggested that I get some help, or alternatively, he'd be happy to make me a longer term guest of the state. Scared straight doesn't work for everyone, but it helped me.
A few days after that I found myself sitting in the basement of a church in Park Slope, trying to figure out what the fuck these bright eyed, cheerful, coffee drinking, cigarette smoking Jesus freaks were talking about. Yes, I had a whole lot to get my arms wrapped around. Turned out they weren't all that cheerful, they mostly weren't Jesus freaks, the bright eyed thing was just in comparison to me, but the coffee and cigarettes thing was truly legit.
The other thing that happened was that this guy named Kim walked up to me and told me a) I need a sponsor, and b) until I could think for myself, it was going to be him. That was definitely just the first two things he told me, not the only things he was going to tell me. He had it all ready for me. "Take it easy" "One day at at time" "Keep it Simple Stupid" "HALT" " People places and things", he had a seemingly endless array of cheesy, simplistic cliches that I absolutely fucking hated. But that in some bizarre way helped me get through each painful confusing substance free day. The one that he hammered on was 90 meetings in 90 days. And that was only the minimum daily requirement. He got me to 2, 3 ,4 a day for those first few months. Morning, mid day, evening, midnight. Clubhouse, Rec halls, Community centers, hospitals, rehabs, jails, and a lot of church basements.
Back then, my day started and ended with Kim. I'd call him to ask him what to eat. I'd call him to ask him what to wear. I'd call him to ask him who I could talk to, who I could get help from, who I should stay away from. I called him to bitch, I called him to scream. I called him to ask if the noise in my head was real. I called him fairly often to ask if all this bullshit was worth it.
I made it through those 90 days, Kim was there for all of it. I got married, Kim was there. I got a job. Kim was there for me. I got my career back on track, I got a new place, I got 6 months, a year, 2 years. Kim was the one constant through all of it. As I progressed, he was always a step ahead of me. He warned me about the feelings that would come up as I got passed the initial fog. He talked to me about the way life came back at you once you decided you wanted back in. He helped me deal with all the issues that come from rebuilding a career, "getting your brains back" after 5 years, changing jobs, pretty much all of it. He was even there when the kids were born, and got to hear all about the fears and insecurities I was dealing with at the prospect of being responsible for these new forms of life.
Kim never really asked me for anything. It's part of the program, but that doesn't mean most people live by it. He did. I know he got something out of the deal, but from my end, it always looked one sided. He was always there for me, he was always patient and willing to listen. He offered advice, never gave orders (not after the first 90 days anyway). He wasn't judgmental, and he even understood my struggles with religion, and never forced the "God stuff" on me. And he never asked me for a single fucking thing. Even when I offered, even when I knew he was in trouble. It just didn't work that way for him. I think for those first 8 to 10 years he saw me as his responsibility, as his burden to bear. If I progressed he was happy, if I needed something he was there, and that was that.
Weeks turned to months, then to years. In 1998 I moved to Florida to start a business. That grew and the kids got older, and led to another move out to the coast. I ended up in Santa Monica, where I am now, with a career that spans 30 years, two healthy happy grown kids and pretty much everything I ever could have asked for. All of that, in some large part, I got because I knew Kim.
My trips to NYC slowed down, and Kim and I didn't talk as often. By 2005 or 2006 he had his own issues to deal with, he'd moved away from the Slope, and we didn't get to connect for a long time. I knew there was more I should have done. I knew he was struggling, and I wasn't. I tried to reach out, not hard enough. But I'm not sure to this day he wanted my help. It wasn't the way it worked for him.
Fortunately, for me anyway, we got to reconnect last year. Got to trade emails, talk on the phone a few times. 25 years makes a difference, but it was still Kim. He told me a little about his personal struggles, just so I would know what was going on. He told me a little about reconnecting with folks close to him he'd lost touch with, but again, only so I'd know he was ok. But mostly, he wanted to hear about me. About mom, about Jan, about the kids. Where I was, what I was doing. Did I still go to meetings, was I dealing with defects of character, did I have a plan. Some of my answers he was happy with, others he was ready to challenge me on. Like I said, it was still Kim.
How does a music obsessed hard headed, arrogant, stubborn, fuck up like me walk into a room and get adopted by an 60's acid rock guitarist who got to work with Hendrix? It was scripted. I had no defense left, and he was to me the coolest guy in the world before I even got to really know him.
Peace and Love dude.