Kim Richards Opens Up About Losing First Husband Monty Brinson Amid Her Struggle to Stay Sober: 'I Know He's up There Pushing Me to Do What I Need to Do'

The father of Richards' daughter Brooke died in January after a battle with lung cancer

Photo: Marc Royce

They hadn’t been married for nearly 30 years, but Kim Richards and Monty Brinson stayed close friends until his death in January after a long battle with lung cancer, and the reality star is still coping with her loss.

“I miss him a lot,” Richards tells PEOPLE exclusively in this week’s issue. “He was my best friend. I confided in him. He knew everything.”

The passing of Brinson (father to Richards’ daughter Brooke, 30; Richards also has Whitney, 26, Chad, 24, and Kimberly, 20, from previous relationships) came at the end of a difficult year for the reality star, one that included an arrest for public intoxication and a stay in rehab.

For exclusive photos and much more from Kim Richards, pick up the new issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday

Now sober and starring on Lifetime’s The Mother/Daughter Experiment: Celebrity Edition, Richards, 51, says she takes comfort in Brinson’s otherworldly presence.

“He told me he’d always be with us, watching and protecting,” says Richards. “And I know he’s still up there pushing me to do what I need to do. He’s our angel.”

The Mother/Daughter Experiment airs Fridays (10 p.m. ET) on Lifetime.

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