Many people became famous in spite of (or sometimes because of) their alcoholism. Here is a short list:
Ulysses S. Grant. 18th president of the United States (1869-1877). His drinking seems to have been brought on by boredom. In other words, when he wasn’t busy, he drank. It did interfere with his work enough that he was relieved of his military duties in 1854. The Civil War came along and his drinking lessened, but did not stop. He drank, but continued to function, throughout the Civil War, emerging a hero. Voted to the presidency in 1868, he died shortly after his second term of throat cancer.
Edgar Allen Poe. Interestingly enough, Poe’s father was an alcoholic, showing yet again the strength of a genetic link for the disease. Poe himself was raised by friends of his birth family. He made several attempts at the military, but his drinking eventually got him drummed out. He published much of his now-famous literature in between bouts of drinking. In 1849, at age 40, he was found lying unconscious on a Baltimore street and taken to the hospital, where he died.
John Daly. PGA golfer and admitted alcoholic, John began drinking at an early age. Beer at age eight, then wine, then whiskey at age 14. His history has been one of huge ups and downs. He won big tournaments, then got arrested for alcohol-related crimes. He has been suspended from the PGA more than once, and even involved in scuffles with fans. His marriages have all dissolved into divorce, and his self-absorption with both gambling and alcohol seem fated to bring him more difficulties in life.
Stephen King. Yet another famous writer, this time born in 1947. As early as 1975 (age 28) he had problems with alcohol. He admits he was drunk when he delivered his mother’s eulogy. King fought multiple addictions, including alcohol, prescription drugs, and illegal drugs. After a family intervention he got sober in the late 80’s and has remained sober since.
Joseph Stalin. The son of an alcoholic father, his birth name was Iosif Vissarionovich Dzhugashvili. He adopted the name Joseph Stalin (“Man of Steel”) in the early 1900’s as he moved toward Marxism. He was jealous and insecure, unfortunately rising to a position of such power that he could either exile or execute those who he felt threatened him. Stalin died suddenly in 1953, and no definitive cause of death has ever been released to the West.
Senator Joe McCarthy. A U.S. Senator from Wisconsin, McCarthy became the face of anti-Communist sentiment in the 1950s. His Senate hearings have been called “witch hunts”. Although his alcoholism has never been officially confirmed, he did demonstrate many of the classic symptoms, such as anxiety and paranoia. He was only 48 years old when he died of acute hepatitis; it should be noted that this is a common complication of alcoholism, and that is generally considered to be what killed him.
Bonnie Prince Charlie. Charles Edward Stuart, The Young Pretender, The King Over the Water. Known by many names, he was the leader of the Jacobites in one of the bloodiest battles in Scottish history–Culloden, where the Prince’s Jacobite forces were annihilated by Cumberland’s army. It was after Culloden that Charles’ drinking took him on a downward spiral. His wife took their daughter Charlotte and left him in the mid-1700s. He died in exile in Rome in 1788.
All of these people are or were powerful in their own rights, even considering their drinking habits. Just think what they could have accomplished had they not succumbed to the lure of alcohol.