Last fall, “20/20″ anchor Elizabeth Vargas, 51, admitted herself into a drug and alcohol treatment program for alcoholism. The world was shocked and even her closest friends and colleagues didn’t know about her disease. The people wanted to know why and how this delicate but tough around the edges successful anchor would need to buddy up with the bottle. Months later, Vargas has decided to share her story. 

Anxiety Driven

 

Elizabeth Vargas has revealed that a lifelong battle with anxiety is what ultimately caused her to start a potentially deadly relationship with alcohol. Vargas appeared on “Good Morning America” acknowledging that she is an alcoholic and said hiding her problem had been “exhausting.”

Denial

 

Vargas told “GMA” co-anchor George Stephanopoulos in interview, “It took me a long time to admit that to myself. It took me a long time to admit it to my family, but I am an alcoholic. The amount of energy I expended keeping that secret and keeping this problem hidden from view was exhausting. Even to admit it to myself was admitting, I thought, that I was a failure.”

 

All of the specials that Vargas did about alcoholism did not make her stop and think that any of it pertained to her. She was still in deep denial. Vargas was co-anchoring on 20/20 with George Stephanopoulos. The pair admits they spent hundreds of hours together but George says he never suspected according to an article in ABC News.

 

Living the Lie

 

Vargas said, “I started thinking ‘Well, you know, I’ll only drink, you know, on weekends. I’ll only drink, you know, two glasses of wine a night. I won’t drink on nights before I have to get up and do ‘Good Morning America.’ But those deals never work.” She called her drinking a “staggering burden” to carry. She said, “You become so isolated with the secret and so lonely, because you can’t tell anyone what’s happening.”

 

Childhood Roots

 

Vargas’ story begins when she was a child. Elizabeth’s father went off to serve in the Vietnam War and her mother had to work. When Vargas would be left at home she started to suffer from panic attacks on a daily basis. These continued into adulthood. Vargas said, “I dealt with that anxiety, and with the stress that the anxiety brought by starting to drink. And it slowly escalated and got worse and worse.”

Vargas said the only person who knew about her alcoholism was her husband, Marc Cohn. She recalled her husband saying to her, “‘you have a problem. You’re an alcoholic.” She admits that it made her very angry but he was right she followed up with.

 

Functioning Alcoholic

In every sense of the word, Vargas was a high functioning alcoholic. Vargas told Stephanopoulos, “I mean, denial is huge for any alcoholic, especially for a functioning alcoholic, because I, you know, I’m not living under a bridge. I haven’t been arrested.” But Vargas knew when she hit rock bottom. She showed up for a “20/20″ shoot one day and realized she was “in no shape to do that interview,” Vargas said she knew she had to get help.

 

Mommy’s Juice

 

Vargas, who has two sons, said, “At night wine was a ritual. I should’ve realized it was a problem way back when Zachary, my oldest son, was born. And he used to call my nightly glass of wine ‘mommy’s juice.’ You know, and I thought that was hysterical. It didn’t occur to me that that was a problem.”Vargas said, “It becomes very easy to think ‘I deserve this glass of wine. I’m so stressed out. I felt like I had to be, you know, perfect, which is ridiculous. Nobody’s perfect.”

 

Leaving Rehab

 

Vargas checked herself into rehab, stayed for 28 days, then left against doctors’ advice and came home. The rehab felt that more work needed to be done. Vargas said five days later she went back because she knew they were right. She then stayed until the doctors there said she was ready to come back. Vargas’s two sons are ages 7 and 10. She said she told them she has an allergy to alcohol because she didn’t want to lay the heavy burden of alcoholism being a disease on them yet.

 

She explained to her boys, ages 7 and 10, that she had an allergy to alcohol. She said. “It’s too scary, you know, the connotation for them is disease is something deadly.” Vargas admits that it’s still hard not to drink but said she feels very strong and has a great support system in place. She goes to AA meetings; she has a sponsor, and great friends who support her. She said. “Alcohol for me is no longer an option.” Instead of turning to alcohol, she now calls a friend, or meditates or prays.

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