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Video: Ted Williams: I’ve been sober for a year

By
TODAY contributor
updated 5/14/2012 9:49:31 AM ET 2012-05-14T13:49:31

Even after a viral YouTube video helped turn him from a homeless crack addict to a media sensation, golden-voiced former radio announcer Ted Williams admitted Monday his struggles were far from over.

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Amid emotional moments of his remarkable journey last year, such as his tearful reunion with his mother in a segment on TODAY, he admitted he relapsed on alcohol and drugs twice, including leaving a treatment facility after less than two weeks.

Story: ‘Golden-voiced’ Ted Williams reportedly quits rehab

Now claiming to be clean and sober for more than a year and surrounded by good people, Williams, 54, has cowritten a book with Brett Witter called "A Golden Voice.” The book details how he went from being a popular Ohio DJ to a homeless crack addict to a YouTube sensation after 17 hard years on the streets. He related the ups and downs of his life to Matt Lauer, in the mellifluous tones of the memorable voice that gained millions of fans when it was heard via YouTube in January 2011.

Story: The man with ‘A Golden Voice’ tells his story of redemption

‘I never stopped praying’
“All through that journey, I never stopped praying,’’ Williams said. “I never lost hope. I would ask God, ‘Please, let my mother and myself stay alive one more year. Lord, please, let a life-changing turnaround happen in my life so that my mother would not close her eyes saying, ‘I did a bad job raising this child.’’’

Williams was forthcoming about his struggles since first appearing on TODAY in January 2011, when he was awestruck by his overnight rise to popularity after years of living on the streets. He voluntarily entered rehab that month after taping television segments with Dr. Phil, only to leave less than two weeks later amid allegations by his family members that he was drinking daily while living in California.

Story: ‘Golden-voiced’ homeless man lands dream job, house

“I figured since it wasn’t my drug of choice, alcohol could be my new drug,’’ Williams said. “I could go and start drinking, and nobody would know. Everybody would know (if) Ted was on crack, but they wouldn’t know that Ted was drinking.’’

After emerging from his second stint in rehab, Williams celebrated his one-year anniversary of sobriety this month by walking his daughter down the aisle at her wedding on May 4.

"I was able to be a part of that, something that a year and a half ago I wouldn’t have even thought about, let alone become a part of,’’ he said.

Video: ‘Golden Voice’ Ted Williams back in spotlight (on this page)

From No. 1 to homeless
During the 1980s, Williams was the No. 1 drive-time DJ in Columbus, Ohio, but addictions to crack cocaine and alcohol cost him his job and his family. From 1993 through 2010, he was homeless in Columbus, begging for money on the street while often giving passing motorists  samples of his still smooth, deep voice.

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Williams chronicles his hard times in bleak detail in his book, describing his delinquent parenting, his dishonesty with his mother, and even prostituting his girlfriend to support his habit. Despite everything that has happened, he and his girlfriend are still together.

“We’re doing well,’’ he said. “One day at a time. This new domesticated life is really wild.’’

Story: Homeless man with golden voice: This time I have God

In December 2010, Williams was panhandling off Interstate 71 in Columbus with a sign that read, "I’m an ex-radio announcer who has fallen on hard times,’’ when he caught the eye of Columbus Dispatch videographer Doral Chenoweth III. He shot a video of Williams doing a silky voice-over and it went viral, with more than 20 million views on YouTube. Williams was soon appearing on the couches of several late-night talk show hosts as well as the set of TODAY as the latest online sensation.

TODAY
Ted Williams spent 17 hard years on the streets before becoming an online sensation last year.

Williams had been obsessed with becoming a radio voice since his mother bought him a radio when he was 10 years old. He enlisted in the Army after his high school graduation and was eventually dishonorably discharged for black-marketing electronic equipment. He pursued his radio dream by getting a job as a DJ at a station in Chadbourn, N.C., before moving on to Columbus and becoming a local celebrity.

Story: Psychologist concerned about ‘golden-voiced’ man

However, he began smoking crack daily and watched as his job and family evaporated because of his addiction. After 17 long years on the streets, he said, he began hearing the voice of God in 2010, urging him to change his life.

"I would literally throw stuff on the ground as litter and that voice would say, ‘I didn’t create this world to look nasty,’ and I would actually walk back as far as quarter-mile to go pick that up and throw it in the trash can,’’ he told Lauer.

Video: Mother: Reunion with homeless son ‘a dream’ (on this page)

Now clean-cut and sober, Williams admitted that it is still an everyday struggle to keep a lid on his addiction. However, he remains optimistic about the future, joking with Lauer that when he returns to TODAY in five years, he will be behind the wheel of a luxury vehicle.

"I want an Escalade bad,’’ he said. "I don’t know if I’m promoting Cadillac right now, but I do want one. My attorney, Bret Adams, said, ‘You keep doing the right thing, I’ll get that Escalade in the driveway.’’’

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