Where’s the Real Help for Ted Williams?

It will take more than job offers, a house and YouTube to make the transition from homelessness and addiction to a productive life

You don’t recover from an addiction by stopping use. You recover by creating a new life where it is easier not to use.–AddictionsandRecovery.org

For the last couple of weeks, media has been abuzz about Ted Williams, the homeless man with the “golden voice” who was catapulted into the national spotlight when his resonant baritone was captured on video and showcased on YouTube. In less than a week, Williams went from living behind an abandoned Columbus-Ohio gas station and hawking his vocal gift as a panhandling gimmick (including the reference to God that is standard operating procedure) to doing a voiceover for a Kraft Macaroni & Cheese commercial at a major college bowl game. In addition, he’s been given a job and a house by the Cleveland Cavaliers, reunited with his 90-year-old mother and offered voiceover work and other job opportunities by everyone from NFL Films to Oprah Winfrey’s OWN. Along the way, he’s been getting more media exposure than a Hollywood starlet on the eve of a blockbuster movie premier, including appearances on The Today Show, CBS Evening News with Katie Couric, CNN, Good Morning America and both Leno and Letterman. Of course, he’s still a hot topic where it all started–in social media. In fact, in addition to more videos spreading over the Internet over the past several days, he’s established profiles on both Twitter (@TedWilliamsOhio) and Facebook.

The headlines sound less like news reports than Hollywood hype: “The Man with the Golden Voice! It’s the Feel Good Story of the Year!”

Well, to be perfectly honest, unless Williams really gets the help he needs as a long-term homeless person and drug addict with multigenerational family dysfunction, I’m not so sure this story will have a happy ending. Don’t get me wrong: I’m thrilled when Williams or anyone else gets a great opportunity to overcome difficult circumstances. Particularly as a Christian, I have great faith in the power of redemption and the capacity of human beings to overcome any situation, including a lifetime of misfortune and poor decisions.

My problem is that the act of redemption and overcoming is not a magical stroke of luck or an instant event, but a process, and not an easy one. The danger here is the trivialization of addiction, of which homelessness and criminal behavior are byproducts. The hard truth is this: Ted Williams is going to need far more than job offers, a free house, television appearances and YouTube to make the transition from homelessness and addiction to a productive, responsible life in recovery. Even Williams’ renewed faith in God and his mother’s reliance on prayer alone are not enough. Indeed, faith without works is dead, as the Bible says. And it’s going to take a lot of work by Williams if the miracle of his recovery is to be truly manifested.

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  • I have already posted on other sites, especially after the ridiculous and childish behavior of CBS and NBC, that the media is behaving like sharks and buzzards attacking red meat over the story, they could care less about him and the impact of all the pressure they’ve created. It was absurd to see how they treated him and his mother and should he relapse, he will be red meat once again. It is my hope that someone with the ability or celeb to gain access with support him by seeing to it he has an AA or addiction sponsor on speed dial and help him see when he needs to take himself off the grid when signs of potential problems show up.

  • Alfred Edmond Jr.

    Just heard that gossip sites are reporting that police were called last night for a domestic dispute between Ted Williams and a daughter. No arrests.

    Even if it’s not true, can you imagine the press scrutiny Williams must be under? Half of the world is waiting on him to wildly succeed; the other half is waiting for him to crash and burn. SMH

  • Loretta

    While this article and others make good points about the support Williams will need in his transition to fame, like most people, addicts or not,  it’s negative. My question to the writer and other ones of similar articles is why is it so important to remind this man (and us) of his failures? Addicts aren’t addicts long after quitting but are addicts because they can’t be forgiven for their sins.  Why isn’t it enough to appreciate what good has come out of a long suffering?

    I’m certain that Ted will not forget what got and kept him in his past position but why is there an underlying attitude that Ted must prove his worth for his redemption? What should be drawn from this is that nothing is permanent, that faith no matter how applied, will bring one out. Rather than focusing on the fact that we’ve seen a miracle our minds have turned toward doubting and jealous in some cases because many of us are still wondering why we haven’t found redemption from our own little sufferings.  

    This whole story should remind us of always looking for the potential in others (and in ourselves) and perhaps encouraging that. 

    • Alfred Edmond Jr.


      The point of my article is not to remind Ted Williams of his failures, but to be honest about the hard work–work that has yet to be done–for him to do better in the future. The fact is, he hasn’t done anything yet, though much has been done FOR him.

      Until an addict takes personal responsibility for his life, he can not fully recover. The belief that “addicts remain addicts….because they can’t be forgiven for their failures” is absolutely untrue. Worse, that belief places responsibility on those who may or may not offer forgiveness, not into the hands of the recovering addict. People’s willingness to assume that responsibility–and take that power–from the addict is an example of the type of enabling behaviors that make it easier for addicts to relapse. “After all,” they tell themselves, “if only you had forgiven me, I wouldn’t have taken that drink/smoked that crack/popped those pills.”

      The point is not that Williams needs to prove his redemption. It’s that he must fight for it, by making the changes in his life necessary to make his future different from his past. That is a difficult, challenging and sometimes painful process. My prayer is that Williams is provided with the help he needs to complete that process, a journey that has only just begun.

      Miracles and demonstrations of God’s grace and glory are rarely accompanied by fairytale stories with Hollywood endings. To gloss over the lion’s den, to commit the fiery furnace to amnesia, is to deny the true glory of the miracle. While many believe that Williams is at the end of his road to redemption, I believe that he’s at the very beginning. You say to focus on his past difficulties and the tremendous challenges that lie ahead is to be negative. I say that to ignore them is naive and practically dooms Wiliams to failure. If Williams’ recovery was that easy, it simply would not qualify as a miracle. God doesn’t do parlor tricks.

    • Alfred Edmond Jr.


      One other thing. The goal should not be to help Ted Williams “in his transition to fame,” but to help him to establish a healthy, productive life free of addiction. Money and fame cannot cure addiction–just ask celebs like Lindsay Lohan. There’s only one solution to addiction: the addict’s commitment to his or her own treatment and rehabilitation. My prayer is that Williams makes that commitment.


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  • Alfred Edmond Jr.

    Here’s a link to another great post on this topic by personal development expert Zara Green: “Don’t Let the Ted Williams Story Be a Setup for a Letdown”


  • I am amazed at how many people believe that the recent delivery from homelessness and multiple job offers have provided an instant cure for Ted Williams. Ongoing wealth and fame haven’t proven enough for the likes of Lindsay Lohan, Britney Spears, Charlie Sheen and countless others who never had to live a minute on the streets. Ted has become accustomed to a culture of street living, petty crime & dysfunction that brings about a mindset that most of us are not familiar with.

    We have the naive belief that ‘now he has all he ever wanted, who would pass up that opportunity and all will be well now in the world of Ted Williams…’ when the truth is that this is a man who chose to continue to live on the streets after being clean & sober (if true) for 2 plus years. One would imagine that along sobriety, would also be the desire to live a better life and leave his daily rituals of tent living & panhandling. But it didn’t. Why is that? Well, one of two things-either Ted is not being totally truthful about his drug/alcohol use or he has become so comfortable with living a life of homelessness and gross mediocrity that he relates more to that lifestyle than he does with that of being a productive, self-sufficient human being. Not unlike prisoners who have become ‘institutionalized’. In either of the scenarios, instant fame & fortune isnt even close to a cure.

    I remember watching the Bobby Brown reality show a few years ago when he and Whitney Houston seemed to be at the height of their addiction. Their irresponsible behavior mixed with the extravagance and dysfunction was hard to watch. They were completely out of control. I remember telling my husband, “They look like two homeless people that just hit the Lotto.” As funny as that was to him at the time, it was really quite sad. I can’t help thinking that the very same thing could happen to Ted without the proper team around him providing guidance and counseling. Let’s face it, he was just panhandling 5 minutes ago! We all want him to succeed, his story is not unlike so many that we have witnessed with family members and friends. But the miracle is not that he was discovered; if as a result of this opportunity Ted Williams makes a total life tranformation, continues to serve God, and remains sober and successful for the rest of his life…that would be the miracle. And I do believe in Miracles!

    • Alfred Edmond Jr.

      Wow, Nichole. You make some amazing points, not the least of which is the comparison to Linday Lohan, Britney Spears & Charlie Sheen, whose fame and fortune have not been solutions to their problems/issues. Thanks, as always, for weighing in!

  • Alfred Edmond Jr.

    My advice to Ted Williams after two days of appearances on Dr. Phil: Take all of the announcing and voiceover jobs you can get. But turn down all television/media appearances for at least six months, until you’ve had a chance to at least begin rebuilding your life. Do what you can to make a living, but put on hold media’s intentions of making money (i.e. viewership, ratings) off of you.

  • Erica

    The real help for Ted Williams can come from you, Black Enterprise, the community, and the “village”. It takes a “village” to do more than raise a child; the village can pull together and help a member in need. Your self-righteous review poses some rather valid questions, but instead of posting more rhetoric anticipating another human failure, use your blogging, your online article to do more than just talk about the situation. What about volunteering to help others who may have a similar plight, or offering your prayers of strength, or asking your online audience to help Ted Williams and others like him? Support others, don’t anticipate; question; and await their fall from our expectations. We are all human; we have all erred; and the expectations belong to him and to God.

    • Alfred Edmond Jr.


      Ted Williams is in my prayers, along with others like him, including members of my family and close friends who are/have been in his situation. Through my personal experience with addicts, I’ve learned that wanting to help and being qualified to help are two entirely different things.

      I (and by extension, Black Enterprise) am not qualified to give Williams the help he really needs: drug rehab, therapy and the help rebuilding his life that is the mission of groups like Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Annonymous. The best way to help addicts like Williams is to support those groups who are qualified to help him and others like him to free themselves from addiction and take control of their lives.

      But even they can’t help until the addict makes a conscious commitment to HIMSELF/HERSELF to change their life, which includes changing habits, changing their environment, ending relationships and living life differently, rejecting their past life as an addict. I’ve heard and seen nothing that tells me that Ted Williams has reached that point yet. My prayer is that he does in time to save himself, and make the most of his talent and all of the opportunities that lie before him–opportunities that were there all along.

      I want Ted Williams to succeed. But it won’t happen if no one is willing to be honest about what it takes for that to happen. If it was just a matter of having money and a job, how do you explain famous celebs like Linday Lohan and Charlie Sheen, who are still battling their addictions? What I’ve shared in this blog post is what has been relayed to me by former addicts, as well as drug counselors and AA/NA sponsors who have spent decades doing the hard, painful, difficult, non-glamorous, heart-breaking work of getting an addict to do what it takes to SAVE THEMSELVES. I’m just a journalist dedicated to telling the truth. But those people are truly doing God’s work.

      Thank you so much for weighing in with your views, Erica.

  • Qisxa

    I love America, only in America can anyone get a chance like this…I tell my brother this all the time.  Get your stuff together and take advantage of what your country has to offer you….I’ve been places where kids wait for a cow to piss so they can drink and wash in the piss…But drugs are powerful….I have a brother who is like Ted he even looks like him, only he has green eyes and his gift is dealing cards.  He’s so good that when he is arrested by Oakland, Berkeley, SF Police they don’t take him to jail they take him to a back room so he can show then how he beat them out of their money..oh yes he has the same gift of gap as well.  He use to be a dealer in Reno and yes he fell into the crack life twenty years ago.  Although i must say as Black people we are always blaming the White Man for what’s wrong in our lives instead of taking responsibility,  This shit is old

  • Q

    So much for the if you work hard and make the right choices… you can make it in America rhetoric… this is the point of view of my college age sons…..Im not hating on my brother, a part of me is very happy for him…because no one deserves to be homeless, but I agree with Bro. Alfred. Unless the addiction and the underlyig causes for his addictive personality are addressed.. this is a train wreck waiting to happen. I dont see anything self righteous about his take on the story… it is a very valid point. In terms of the feel good angle…. I’d feel extremely good if all these offers were given to a few young black men.. who believed the formula for success… who went to school, didnt get involved in gangs, didnt get addicted to drugs, respected their parents and elders, and just need an opportunity to show what they can do! My sons have already staked out a corner and are preparing their signs!

  • Kwanza Benjamin

    You make some valid points. For one I am so happy for Ted Williams, this is something that is out of the norm for a once homeless individual. It’s an awesome opportunity and I wish him the best. And I’m also afraid for him as well. We just have to pray that God intervenes in his life. So much has changed in his life so fast. I just hope he doesn’t have a nervous breakdown with the over night success. Hopefully he can have someone in his corner that can mentor him and help him go in the right direction. Alfred, I totally agree, he should take as many radio voice over jobs as possible, and hold off on any television appearances for the time being. He still will be working. My fear is that as soon as he makes one wrong turn, the media will eat him alive. It’s not fair but it has happend in the past to many great people. Ted Williams will be in my prayers.

  • Truth

    Maybe you should do something?!? Everyone sits around and says “somebody should do something” expecting somebody ELSE to do something. If you feel that moved – then you do it yourself or quit complaining. Pretty simple actually…..

    • Alfred Edmond Jr.


      It’s not enough for somebody to just do something. They have to be qualified to do what’s needed. What Williams needs (and apparently, now seems to be getting) is long-term drug rehab, counseling and other help that can only be provided by credentialed, trained professionals. This is not work that just anybody–including me– is qualified to do.

      This is not the help that Williams was being offered when this story broke. But thanks in large part to those of us who called attention to what was NOT being offered to him (the “something” I AM qualified to do), he is finally getting the help he’s needed all along. But even they can only help–it’s still up to Williams to make the most of his “golden” opportunity.

    • Truth;

      What Ted Williams needs is to want it himself! Which he clearly does not as demonstrated by leaving treatment. After all, the REAL Ted Williams never asked for all of this and until he wants more anything anybody else does won’t matter.

      • Alfred Edmond Jr.

        What? He left treatment? Wow. I hadn’t heard that. SMH