"I could have closed up into a ball right there," he writes. "Could have turned into a 'bad kid.' . . . But instead, I did the opposite."
Acting proved his passion, and he pursued it in school and then in New York, where he had to cover his prematurely balding head with a toupee - secondhand, but once worn by a celebrity - to get work. He made it to Broadway with a well-regarded performance as a junkie in "A Hatful of Rain" but couldn't get an agent.
That prompted him and then-wife Joan Rootvik, a Radio City Music Hall Rockette, to make the jump to Hollywood in the late 1950s, where he found a representative and work and met actors who turned into lifelong friends, including Ted Knight, another future "Mary Tyler Moore" cast member.
Then a career slump forced MacLeod to take a part in the sitcom "McHale's Navy" that was so minor that Knight chided him: "How can you do this, man? You're a glorified extra!"
His sense of failure led to heavy drinking and, one night, a close encounter with death when he nearly drove off a cliff in despair, MacLeod recounted. He ended up quitting the series, getting his career back on track and eventually giving up alcohol in 1973.
"I never craved another drink. I see people get drunk in front of me and I feel compassion for them. I celebrate life sober," he said.
His book details other challenges, including his divorce from his first wife and marriage, divorce and remarriage to actress-dancer Patti Steele. It was she who brought MacLeod, raised a Catholic, to their shared born-again faith.
The longtime spokesman for Princess Cruises said he considers his Hollywood acting career over and will appear only in Christian-themed projects such as the 2008 movie "The Secrets of Jonathan Sperry."
"That's the only thing I want to do now. There's a great purpose to doing those films. Nothing else interests me," he said.