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'20/20' Anchor Elizabeth Vargas: 'I Am an Alcoholic'

Suzy Byrne
Yahoo TV
January 24, 2014

'20/20' Anchor Elizabeth Vargas: 'I Am an Alcoholic'

Suzy Byrne
Yahoo TV
January 24, 2014

Elizabeth Vargas's stint in rehab has given her clarity.

The "20/20" anchor appeared on "Good Morning America" Friday and, for the first time, publicly admitted she is an alcoholic, and then opened up about her battle.

"I am an alcoholic," said the 51-year-old newswoman. "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, who said she was a wine drinker, talked about keeping her problem hidden through the years, calling it "exhausting" and a "staggering burden" to carry. Vargas said she felt like a "failure" when she would cover stories on alcoholism when she was privately struggling with it herself.

In November, Vargas entered rehab to finally conquer her demons. She said it was her husband, Marc Cohn, who first confronted her about her drinking, but it took her a while to come around.

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"'You have a problem. You're an alcoholic,'" the mom of two recalled him saying. "It made me really angry, really angry. But he was right ... 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." However, when she showed up for a "20/20" shoot one day and realized she was "in no shape to do that interview," she finally decided to get help.

Vargas went to a facility that specializes in treating trauma. She said she had suffered from anxiety and panic attacks since childhood and later started drinking to ease it. However, "it slowly escalated and got worse and worse."

Rehab wasn't without its problems either. After staying for 28 days, she left — against doctors' advice — and returned home.

"And I came home for five days and realized they were right, and I went back and finished and stayed until the doctors there said I was ready to come back," she said.

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Vargas said she explained to her sons, who are 7 and 10, that she is allergic to alcohol as she didn't want to scare them by calling it a "disease." They are doing OK and visited her in rehab.

Now that she's out, she's in AA and leaning on her friends and loved ones for support.

"You know, this isn't what I want to be known for, but I'm really proud of what I did," she said.

She's already received kind words about her interview from colleagues, including Robin Roberts, who wrote: