Ted Williams, who rebounded from a 17-year drug and alcohol habit that landed him on the streets of Columbus, OH, talked candidly about his experience after working on a documentary for the Rockland Independent Living Center (RILC).
Williams, once a prominent radio announcer and voiceover specialist in Columbus, has been dubbed “The Golden Voice.”
The 55-year-old is narrating part of the 22-minute documentary, Heart & Soul, about mental health and substance abuse issues.
RILC Executive Director George Hoehmann said the film would address the cardiovascular issues of people with mental health diagnosis and/or substance abuse. He said cardiovascular problems are frequently overlooked and ignored by the affected individuals and the system that tries to help them. He hopes that the documentary funded by a $25,000 federal grant will bring attention to the issue.
Because these problems are overlooked, Hoehmann said people with mental health issues or substance addictions die an average of 10 years earlier than the general population.
“They don’t take care of their health,” said Hoehmann. “They die from cardiovascular and other related health issues.”
Williams was in Orangeburg on Tuesday filming on location at a cemetery on the grounds of the Rockland Psychiatric Center. The site was chosen to draw awareness to people dying from those conditions earlier than they should.
“Mental health is something that I’m trying to do now,” said Williams, who listed several medications he takes. “I’m trying to address my mental health issues.”
The film tells the story of three people in : Williams, a peer specialist at RILC and a peer specialist with the Peer Recovery Center in Newburgh. Additionally, the film includes interviews with leaders in the recovery community from the Nathan Kline Institute in Orangeburg, Loeb House and New York University. Filming began in July and includes the Piermont Pier, Newburgh and locations in Ulster County plus scenes with people in recovery working at Cropsey Farm in New City.
Hoehmann said Williams seemed like a natural choice for the documentary because he has had significant physical health issues and did not deal with those problems.
“He’s always going to be in recovery,” said Hoehmann. “He’s always going to have challenges."
RILC staff and Falling Awake Productions of New York City co-wrote the script. Hoehmann expects the documentary in partnership with Falling Awake Productions to be completed in September in time for an October premiere at HBO Studios in Times Square. He expects Williams will attend the screening.
A DVD of the film will be sold to raise money to help people in recovery and RILC has plans to promote it around the country.
“We’re then going to take the film to different venues – college campuses, managed care organizations,” he explained.
Hoehmann said the health problem is enormous and affects many people. He said wellness treatment has to be part of the recovery process.
“We have hundreds of people that self identify they have mental health issues,” he said. “The message we’re trying to get across is this is a major issue.”
Williams proudly said he has been clean from drugs for 15 months. In that time, he has appeared on numerous network news shows, talk shows, done voiceovers for Kraft Foods commercials and the New England Cable News Network. Williams co-wrote a book, “A Golden Voice” and started the Ted Williams Project to provide needed items for homeless shelters across the country.
He has hopes of doing more voiceover work and voice characterizations for animation plus plans to be with his family.
“I was out of my kid’s life for so many years and now I have the opportunity to be in my grandkid’s life. So that’s what I’m trying to do – to leave on a good note,” said Williams.
Hoehmann said Williams’ story of rags to riches is inspiring.
“Ted’s story and if you read his book is about redemption. It’s never too late for a second chance. You can always have a second chance in recovery.”