— As far as rags to riches stories go, it’s hard to beat that of Ted Williams, the homeless man with the golden voice discovered panhandling along a Columbus, Ohio highway last November. But if his story seemed too good to be true, it’s because Williams now admits it was.
While Williams became a media sensation, making repeated appearances on TODAY and fielding offers from around the globe for voice-over work and radio gigs, he held fast to the claim he had licked his addictions to alcohol and crack cocaine some two-and-a-half years before.
But now, Williams admits he never fell off the wagon – he never climbed on in the first place. Now 90 days sober after a stint at Origins Recovery Center in Texas, Williams appeared on the "Dr. Phil" show Thursday to apologize to Phil McGraw for misleading him during several appearances on his show.
“There (were) a lot of things I lied about – I owe you some amends,” Williams told McGraw. “I lied about my sobriety.”
McGraw, who had long claimed the 53-year-old Williams’ sudden flush of fame was too much, too soon for a recovering addict, repeatedly grilled Williams about his substance abuse problems over the course of several appearances on his show, who stuck to his story of sobriety.
Thursday, Williams admitted to McGraw he was still in throes of drug addiction at the time.
“I just wasn’t ready to give up smoking,” Williams said. “The obsession was still there, and I thought you were trying to bust my bubble.
“I thought I had lost my mind. I had this great, God-given gift; instead I still wanted to smoke crack, never caring about (my family), just going right to that pipe.
“Treatment allowed me to find out about the illness of disease of addiction.”
Even as Williams talked about his long-term recovery in the days following his overnight fame, holes began to show in his story. Williams was booked to appear on "Dr. Phil" in January to face and mend fences with his estranged children. But family members said Williams drank heavily every night during their L.A. stay, culminating in a nasty fight with his daughter Janey, in which she accused her father of socking her in the jaw and pulling her hair.
While Williams told McGraw in January “I didn’t put my hands at her at all,” on Thursday’s show he admitted hitting Janey. McGraw finally talked Williams into checking into rehab after his January appearance on the show, but Williams insisted he needed to return to Columbus before entering.
Once again, Williams told McGraw on air at the time he largely stayed away from drugs and alcohol during his trip back home, but admitted Thursday he went on a three-day bender of crack, alcohol and marijuana. McGraw told Williams he knew all along Williams had been lying to him, and sent a plane to Ohio to ship him off to rehab.
“I thought you were going to wind up dead if you stayed another 48 hours,” McGraw told Williams on Thursday’s show.
But the rehab didn’t take – Williams checked out after six days. McGraw said he heard nothing else from the recalcitrant Williams until he received a letter from him in May, asking him to arrange another stab at rehab. McGraw said the Origins Recovery Center, “agreed, albeit reluctantly,” to give Williams another chance.
“I said, ‘This is a good man, and he has a terrible disease; don’t give up on him,’ ” McGraw said.
The results of Williams’ rehab stint were glorious on Thursday’s "Dr. Phil" show – he appeared bright-eyed and beaming. Williams sat alongside his girlfriend of 17 years Kathy, who lived on the streets for years with Williams working as a prostitute to help supply money to feed their crack cocaine addictions. Kathy also completed rehab at the same time as Williams.
While many of the jobs Williams was offered in the heady days after being discovered in November largely fell by the wayside as he continued to battle his demons, his attorney Brett Adams told McGraw Thursday he believes Williams story of recovery is all the more compelling – and credible – now.
“I think he’ll be back out there and be very, very successful,” Adams said. “From what we’re seeing, I don’t think there’s a question that he’ll make (a) good impression.”
McGraw said he believes Williams can now be a role model to others in his sobriety.
“I’ve got millions of viewers out there and many have addicts in their life that they’re dealing with,” McGraw told Williams. “I don’t want them to give up hope. You are an inspiration to those people; they see sitting there now, where you are truly clean and sober. You are a teaching tool.”