ABC News anchor Elizabeth Vargas came to terms with her alcohol addiction and said she is ready to get back to work, following her two recent stints in rehab this past November. On Monday, Vargas opened up to George Stephanopoulos on Good Morning America about the troubled secret she was keeping and what drove her deeper and deeper into her addiction.
“I am. I am an alcoholic,” Vargas told Stepanopoulos during an interview that aired Friday morning on GMA. “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.”
Vargas explained that her struggles with addiction came after many years of stress and even panic attacks starting from childhood. In order to deal with her anxiety she soon turned to alcohol, which quickly spiraled out of control. When her husband finally confronted her saying, “You have a problem. You’re an alcoholic,” Vargas only rejected his concerns.
“It made me really angry, really angry. But he was right.” Vargas continued. “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.”
Her love for wine soon became apparent to even her two sons, aged 7 and 10, who started to notice what they called “mommy’s juice.” At first Vargas laughed off her child’s understanding of her alcohol addiction, neglecting to see the precedent she was setting. After a series of panic attacks on live television, she turned to beta blockers for controlling her anxiety, but finding other ways to deal with the stress only exasperated her alcoholism.
Finally, Vargas decided to seek treatment by entering a rehabilitation centering specializing in trauma treatment. However, after only staying at the facility for 28 days, she packed up her bags and left for home, against her doctor’s recommendations. Five days at home proved to Vargas that she was not ready, so she headed back to the rehab center and finished her stay under the doctor’s orders.
Fast forward to today, Vargas is free of her alcohol addiction and is ready to resume her anchor spot on 20/20. Although the urge to have a glass of wine still comes up once in a while, she says her family, friends and sponsor at Alcoholics Anonymous have helped her to avoid any triggers she may experience. She may not want to be known for her struggle with alcoholism, but she is definitely proud of beating her addiction and putting that part of her life in the past.
“Listen, there are lots of people who feel a lot of stress. Not everybody turns to a glass of wine or three like I did, or four, like I did on some occasions. What I learned to do when I was away was to feel the feelings,” Vargas added. “You know what? They’re not going to kill you. You have to experience them. I never learned that skill and [it] makes it tough some days. Alcohol for me is no longer an option.”