When Ted Williams, “The Man with the Golden Voice,” visited Philadelphia, he touted the importance of supporting recovery efforts to those dealing with addictions.
Williams was in town for Saturday’s PRO-ACT Recovery Walks! — an annual fundraising event whose goal is to raise awareness of drug and alcohol addiction as a public concern, and to provide hope that recovery is possible.
“I want to get out here and encourage people to support recovering people. I want to try to help eliminate the stigmas,” Williams said of his support for the event.
“When people think about recovering people they say ‘once a crackhead, always a crackhead,’ ‘once an alcoholic, always an alcoholic’ and ‘once a gambler, always a gambler.’ We can recover.”
He wants those who are struggling to overcome their addictions to know that they can recover, gain meaningful employment, become contributing taxpayers and be responsible.
“I have a bad taste in my mouth when people say, ‘You’ll never recover.’ No, I’m recovering. In the process of recovering, I’m able to pay taxes and put food on the table and to provide. That means a lot,” he said.
The professional voiceover artist became a YouTube sensation in January 2011 after being discovered, homeless and panhandling, in Columbus, Ohio. A video of Williams by a Columbus Dispatch reporter went viral, with more than 20 million views. He would later appear on the “TODAY” show and several late-night talk shows.
During the 1980s, Williams was the top, drive-time disc jockey in Columbus, Ohio, but addictions to crack, cocaine and alcohol cost him his job and family. After two stints in rehab, Williams has been clean and sober for more than a year.
He’s been taking his recovery one day at a time. He admits that he still has his moments where he feels like he wants to use drugs and goes through withdrawal.
“I’m going through a transformation. We’re all a work in progress,” said Williams, who grew up in Brooklyn, N.Y.
“I didn’t think that I was going to concentrate on trying to stay clean and sober at all. I thought for sure that I was earmarked for hell. As many people as I have deprived of their goods, robbed and conned, I thought there was a place for me especially,” Williams said as he spoke candidly about his past.
To that end, Williams never thought he’d get to a point where he would see his commercial air on television or develop a biography.
While he grew up in a spiritual home, Williams says he didn’t develop a real relationship with God until he was on the streets.
“It was the first time I was hearing his voice, internalizing his acknowledgement of what I was doing right and what I was doing wrong,” he said.
Today, Williams says his motto is “Put God first and all things are possible.”
“It’s God first, then sobriety, then family,” he says.
Williams has been keeping busy. He launched the Ted Williams Second Chance Foundation to assist homeless shelters in obtaining items such as mattresses.
Last year, Williams started doing voice work for Kraft. He is still the voice of Kraft’s Homestyle Macaroni and Cheese television ad.
In May, Williams released a biography titled “A Golden Voice: How Faith, Hard Work and Humility Brought Me From the Streets to Salvation,” written with Bret Witter. The book chronicles his 17 years on the streets, his rise to fame and his struggle for recovery. Plans are in the works to take the memoir to the made-for-film market.
Last year’s Recovery Walks drew more than 15,000 attendees. The event was a fundraiser to support PRO-ACT’s prevention, advocacy and recovery support services. The walk is one of several events that the Council of Southeast Pennsylvania and PRO-ACT held as a part of Recovery Month, a national initiative sponsored by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.