He was a war hero, a former prisoner in North Vietnam; she was the daughter of a wealthy beer distributor and almost 20 years his junior. They met in 1979 at a reception in Honolulu. "We both lied about our ages," Cindy told a reporter. "I made myself older and he made himself younger." Before they could marry, he had to divorce his first wife (although they still remain on good terms).
Cindy has always supported her husband's political ambitions; her father reportedly helped bankroll John's first congressional race in 1982. But his first presidential campaign, in 1999, meant revisiting hard times in her life—particularly her addiction to the painkillers Percocet and Vicodin, which she started taking in 1989 after experiencing back pain. She hid her addiction, stealing the drugs from a charity she'd established to provide medical aid to developing countries. Her parents finally confronted her, and she quit "cold turkey" in 1992. No charges were filed, but she repaid the charity as part of a deal with prosecutors. These issues don't seem to have affected most voters' views of her—or him. In fact, Cindy was more often considered a political asset.
Cindy has made medical relief to impoverished countries a major focus of her energy. Her frequent missions produced an unexpected benefit. In 1991, on a visit to Bangladesh, she visited an orphanage where more than a hundred infants were living in poor conditions. At the request of the nuns who ran the orphanage, she brought home one of them, a 10-week-old girl who was severely disfigured by a cleft palate and needed medical care. The McCains gave her that care and eventually adopted her. Now 15, Bridget McCain is currently a high school student in Arizona.