Dennis Wholey's enthusiasm for famous personalities and for the subject of alcoholism arises from his experience as a TV talk-show host and an alcoholic. His book consists of first-person accounts by celebrities and public figures about their own alcoholism or that of a family member.

The book's jacket presents an eye-grabbing array of well-known names -- Robert Bauman, Wilbur Mills, Billy and Sybil Carter -- whose personal stories are given inside. And it should be noted -- but is not -- that the Jean Kirkpatrick PhD listed on the cover is not this country's ambassador to the United Nations, but the founder of Women for Sobriety, an organization in Quakertown, Pa.

Still, Wholey has done more than drop names and sensationalize the emotional and physical distress of famous people. He has drawn from them much useful information and has added authoritative material on how the disease works, the differing approaches to handling it and the range of treatment options for staying drug-free.

Moralistic judgments on the alcoholic are going out of style, with the exception of the drunk driver, who is increasingly seen as a criminal. The "medical model" sees alcoholism as a disease, although one subject to behavioral control. The celebrities who have shared their alcoholic experiences with the public have encouraged countless "closet" alcoholics to face and take hold of their problem.

One point is made repeatedly: Life is better and more exciting, instead of dull and boring, when you're sober.