There are many alcoholics who have become famously successful, in spite of their drinking problems. Countless others, who rise to stardom, turn to alcohol as a way to help them deal with pressure. With recent press about the alcoholism of Mel Gibson and David Hasselhoff, it is tempting to think that this is a new phenomenon. Sadly, it is not. Famous alcoholics have been among us since the dawn of time practically.
Edgar Allen Poe is among the ranks of those who may have died from an alcohol related illness. Poe was a brilliant writer and a tortured soul. His condition makes a strong case for the concept that alcoholism is genetic; his birth father was also an alcoholic. Poe was raised by friends of his birth-family, so as an impressionable child, he was shielded from his father’s drinking. Still, Poe was tempted by the allure of an intoxicating beverage. This led him down the rocky road of alcoholism. In 1849, after a long battle with the disease, Poe died at the age of 40. Shortly before his death, he was found unconscious in the streets of Baltimore. Many believe that alcohol poisoning was the main culprit in Poe’s untimely death.
Billie Holiday is another legend to die of an alcohol related illness. Billie was a very talented American jazz singer and songwriter in the 1940’s. You can still hear the influence of her innovative style in today’s music. Billie was a pioneer of her day, but found it difficult to handle the immense pressure. Soon after her rise to fame, she started drinking heavily. Later, she would give into temptation and start using illegal drugs. By the 1950’s, her health was deteriorating from years of drinking and drug abuse. At the young age of 44, Billie Holiday died from cirrhosis of the liver. Less than two months earlier, as she lay dying, she was arrested for possession of illegal drugs. She was only allowed a few hours to herself (without the company of a police officer) before she passed away. It was a very sad end to the tumultuous life of a famous alcoholic.
Some may be surprised to learn that the 18th President of the United States was also an alcoholic. Ulysses S. Grant was known to imbibe regularly during breaks from work. Some say he would drink out of boredom. Shockingly, he retained composure, while still drinking heavily, during the Civil War. Ulysses S. Grant emerged a hero and was later voted President. Ulysses S. Grant passed away soon after his second term.
If you listen to the news, you will undoubtedly hear stories of famous people who are losing the battle with alcoholism. However, there are still many that will overcome all obstacles to regain control over their lives. Some even reach out and lend a hand to others. Betty Ford is one of those people. Betty Ford, widow of President Gerald Ford, was the First Lady of the United States from 1974 to 1977. She is well-known for being outspoken about topics that were previously taboo. Betty Ford was known to discuss topics like feminism, equal pay, abortion, and gun control. In the 1970’s she took her ongoing battle with alcoholism public. To boost her recovery efforts, the Ford family staged an intervention in 1978. After four years of sobriety, Betty Ford opened the Betty Ford Center to help others battle addiction.
Steven King is another celebrity alcoholic that chose the path of sobriety. King is a talented writer who struggled with alcoholism since the age of 28. He took his last drink of alcohol before a family intervention in the 1980’s.
We can learn a lot from the stories of these famous celebrities. The most important lesson is, though it may be difficult, the path to sobriety is a choice.