ABC News’ Elizabeth Vargas: ‘I Am An Alcoholic’

ABC News' Elizabeth Vargas: 'I Am An Alcoholic'

“20/20” anchor returning Friday after time in rehab

“20/20” anchor Elizabeth Vargas discussed what she said was an “exhausting” battle with alcoholism on “Good Morning America” Friday.

“I am. I am an alcoholic,” Vargas told “GMA” co-anchor George Stephanopoulos in interview that was taped Thursday. “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.”

Also read: '20/20' Host Elizabeth Vargas Enters Rehab for Alcohol

Vargas, who sought treatment in rehab last fall, returns to the air Friday on “20/20.” She said she is in Alcoholics Anonymous and has a sponsor.

Vargas said she had done “20/20” specials on drinking but couldn't acknowledge she had a problem. She said she knew she needed help when she showed up for a “20/20” shoot one day and realized she was “in no shape to do that interview.”

She also resisted when her husband, Marc Cohn, told her, “‘You have a problem. You're an alcoholic.'”

Also read: ‘GMA': Amy Robach Plans to Work Through Chemo (Video)

“It made me really angry, really angry,” she said. “But he was right.”

Vargas said she drank mostly wine, and that one of her children called it “mommy's juice.” She tried to limit her intake.

“I started thinking ‘Well, you know, I'll only drink, you know, on weekends,” she said, laughing. “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.”

Also read: Robin Roberts Shows Girlfriend to ‘GMA’ Viewers for First Time Since Coming Out (Video)

Vargas, 51, said she had battled panic attacks since she was a child. They began when her father was serving in Vietnam, and her mother would leave to go to work.

“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,” she said.

She said it took her a long time to realize she had a problem.

“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,” she said.

She said that instead of turning to alcohol, now she calls a friend, meditates or prays.

“There's been a real spiritual component for me in all of this,” she said. “Reach out to somebody who can talk you through that rotten day.”

  • SamyyCiao

    Ouch – wonder who else will come forth?

  • rob

    first step is admitting you have a problem! now take control! good luck!

    • richard

      She should resign her position, which should then be given to someone who has never had an alcohol or drug problem.

      • Donald Jonas

        Kudos and congratulations to you Elizabeth. I am also an alcoholic. I have been in recovery for 33 years. That is no different than 3 days, 3 years or ten years. I m still an alcoholic. There is nothing wrong with admitting your disease. It took me awhile to admit it to myself and after I did, I was the happiest person on earth. My life was somewhat normal after that and still is. One day a a time still after 33 years. There is no reason to quit your job or change your life in any way except be sure the phone is by your side. Again, congratulations and good luck. I know you will have many more people in the same situation and upward bound.
        Tell Hubby I said “hi” and I am waiting for the next song.
        Don Jonas

    • anonymous

      Don't ‘take control’ turn it over to your higher power, also try to learn the meaning of anonymity. I can't keep you from identifying as a member of AA but identifying yourself as a member of Alcoholic's Anonymous by name is an oxymoron to the name or our program. Please do let not knowing what you are talking about in the press keep you from talking about it in the press.

  • ezduzit

    I hope her sponsor crawls her butt regarding this article and airing and teaches her the traditions of AA. We are anonymous at the level of press, radio and film!

    • anonymous

      Thanks for the comment and you are right !! Unfortunately too many so called ‘sponsors’ do not understand anonymity or the 12 traditions. Hence many who do wish to recover get disgruntled with the sponsors and members own self importance who choose to disrespect the programs steps and traditions. On the good side she can try the least used 10th step and promptly admit being wrong.

  • Leigh

    I don't see a problem with her admitting she is in AA. She did not identify anyone else. As one who has been sober for 7 years now; I applaud her for coming out about it. It could very well help others.

    • Friend of Bill W

      Ask some old timers in AA as to why this goes against AA tradition.

      • shareit

        Leigh is right, and it's not about the old timers as everyone has one day. Also if she can help someone that is better, as you can't keep what was given to you freely.

        • Paul Lester

          I agree with Leigh and shareit. What is more important, AA tradition, or helping people deal with their own alcoholism.

          • Fireman Bill

            With out the traditions there would be no AA.

    • eacypaaxii

      anonymity serves two purposes: protecting the newcomer so he or she can feel safe to come and share honestly, and protecting AA as a whole from “overzealous and self-serving anonymity breakers [who] could quickly jeopardize the fellowship's hard-won reputation”

  • Bill G

    This is absolutely 100% against AA tradition. What happens if she goes back out like John Daly – she will be a great example to people of why AA does not work. She needs to get a new sponsor ASAP. I have been in AA 27 years her sponsor must not know a lot about AA.

    • Jim Grateful

      The Tradition issue might not have been anticipated…but, given all the circumstances, it should have been. The author probably was/is not aware of the concept of anonymity. This is common when high profile people get into recovery and their stories are presented in the media; “…anonymity at the level of press, radio and films” might be worth teaching in journalism schools…the ethics part…if, in fact, journalistic ethics are still being taught.

    • Fireman Bill

      The 11th tradition is not about protecting AA. It's about protecting the individual against their own ego and the dangers of playing Mr./Miss AA. It came about after Bill W almost destroyed his sobriety by playing up to the press.

  • Another Friend of Bill

    Shame, shame on her for breaking the Tradition of anonymity. Such self-serving attention-seeking doesn't bode well for her sobriety.

  • Harry Santucci

    Freak show half are gay and the other half are in love with the abnormal
    what a circus they make being a drunk sound sexy. Vargas is an airhead anyway just needed a excuse.

  • jimtrees

    Were the girls on ABC all drunk when they voted? We know what Barbra had in her mouth at the time. What's the excuse for Diane's continued screw-ups.

  • raleighman

    I am not an expert on AA but do recall going to an AA meeting with my grandfather 40+ years ago. My grandpa was so pleased to have his family with him. I am a little shocked at the harsh comments towards Elizabeth. Her example can help others to admit their problems. She didn't “out” anyone else. Why the outrage?

  • Lovinglife52

    If she wants to say she is in AA she is free to do so. I always felt many of the traditions were out of date and AA members cannot wait to gossip after the meetings anyway.

  • I AM Patrick

    Hi. I am Patrick and I'm an alcoholic. I have been sober for 25 years. My father was an alcoholic and so was his father and so are my 3 brothers. I started going to AA meetings only after I got arrested for DWI and friends told me it would help me in court if I could tell the judge I was seeking help. But that night I was so drunk I refused to take any breathalyzer or blood test because I knew I was off all the charts. Going into those rooms and hearing other's stories convinced me I was just like them — despite everyone having their own personal story. I am not a public person. Elizabeth Vargas is. And her telling her story will help hundreds if not thousands when they finally see themselves in the mirror she holds up for them on their televisions.

  • Guns Grigas

    Bravo Elizabeth!

  • IsaBelle Freeman

    More attention has long been needed on women and alcohol related challenges today. As this issue receives more and more attention we will begin to be exposed to more of the truth on valid, evidence-based resources and empowerment for women facing Substance/Alcohol Use Disorder. I wish her well being and continued success. See the recent Katie Couric interview about Her Best Kept Secret, by national best selling author and journalist, Gabrielle Glaser about women and alcohol use today via the following link:

    • Lovinglife52

      That is a good book, I read it recently myself. It really does talk about the way that wine drinking has become the norm in the west and how this has become a problem.

      It is certainly more rational that a bunch of AA people worrying about an old tradition, praying to higher powers, and saying they have a spiritual disease.

      Elizabeth Vargas would probably be the type of woman Gabrielle is talking about and would respond better to alternative treatments compared to the old fashioned AA method that was designed for low bottom drinkers in the 1930's.

  • Fireman Bill

    Her sponsor needs to remind her of the 11th AA Tradition.
    “Our public relations policy is based on attraction rather than promotion; We need always maintain personal anonymity at the level of press radio and films.”