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.