OSWEGO, N.Y. –- As a young boy growing up in an alcoholic household, Timothy Williams told himself he would never drink. He watched as his father’s drinking habits, absence, paranoia, and selfishness tore apart his family and created a negative relationship between the two of them. He vowed he would never be like his father.
“I had no intention of drinking,” said Williams. “I really didn’t.”
Now, as a 65-year-old recovered alcoholic and retired art teacher, Williams sits in his office working on a PowerPoint presentation on his retirement travels for his former high school students.
He wears a blue knit sweater, complimented by multiple beaded bracelets and round-framed glasses. His office smells strongly of cinnamon, as a pot of spices and water sits atop a space heater in the center of the room. Important documents like his passport and insurance card are taped to the wall above his desk, and the clock on the wall sings out meadow lark chirps every hour.
Williams started drinking when he was 15 years old. Going to high school and struggling with depression caused Williams to develop severe insecurities, which were only solved by the false confidence of alcohol.
After being dragged into a pub in Europe with some friends, Williams had his first drink, a gin and tonic on the rocks. He sipped the drink, and then downed it. Then he downed another one.
“No longer did I need the ice, no longer did I need the tonic. Straight gin at 15 years old,” Williams said. “I was flying high, and my whole life changed.”
All of Williams’ insecurities left the moment he started drinking. He said that he no longer felt worthless. He was able to laugh, look people in the eye, and have fun.
Williams took third place in county championships for wrestling his sophomore year of high school, but his excessive drinking cut his wrestling career short.
“I had all the potential in the world,” said Williams. “But by my junior year, alcohol was more important than anything else.”
Even though his insecurities were dissolved by alcohol, he continued to suffer from depression and suicidal thoughts. With every minor inconvenience, suicide was Williams’ first reaction, but he could never go through with it.
“I didn’t want to leave a trail of misery behind,” said Williams. “It wasn’t about self-interest, it was more about how I would affect other people.”
When Wiliams met his now ex-wife, her father demanded that he get sober or else he wouldn’t condone the marriage. Williams said he went to every Alcoholics Anonymous meeting as more of a resentment towards his father-in-law; he wanted to show him that he didn’t have a drinking problem. This was the push he needed to finally get clean.
Not only does Williams describe himself as a previous alcoholic, but a workaholic as well. He loved working and has worked many different jobs while struggling with substance abuse and also being sober. He’s been a dishwasher, chef, X-ray technician, hotel and restaurant manager, and most recently, a high school art teacher.
Rylie Weston, a sophomore at SUNY Oswego, as well as her mother, Kari Shaw, are former students of his from Honeoye Central School.
“I’ve known him since I was in the womb. He was my mother’s high school advisor, and she told him he wasn’t allowed to retire until he was my advisor too,” said Weston.
Williams spent 18 more years teaching high school art in order to be Weston’s advisor, and she is eternally grateful for that.
“I honestly don’t think I would’ve gotten through high school without him,” Weston said. “He taught me to take a deeper look at life and try to find the best in any situation.”
Weston describes Williams as unique, kindhearted, enthusiastic, and extremely selfless. She says that no matter the problem you’re struggling with, Williams has lived through a similar experience and is willing to help you out as much as he possibly can.
“You don’t meet people like him often,” said Weston.
Williams has always done everything he can to help people, and constantly puts others’ needs before his own. Teaching high school gave him the opportunity to participate in multiple community service programs, which is something he still enjoys.
“People ask me all the time, ‘Well what do you do for Tim?’ That’s what I do for Tim,” said Williams. “I like helping people.”
Williams says he has had many proud moments in his life, but many believe that Williams should be most proud of staying sober for 33 years. While he is very proud of his sobriety, his proudest moments are those that came from teaching.
“I love teaching, I still do,” said Williams. “Art has given me such freedom, and it’s one of my coping skills.”
Even after retirement, Williams can be found teaching drawing, painting, ceramics, print-making, and journal-making classes all around Ontario County.
Out of everything Williams could be remembered for, he says he wants people to remember him for doing the right thing and trying his best.
“I did my best as a teacher, a humanitarian, a father, a husband, and a friend,” said Williams. “I did my best, that’s my epitaph.”