The co-anchor of 20/20 and host of many ABC news specials, Elizabeth Vargas, recently completed a stint in rehab and returned to television. Vargas admitted that she had struggled with an addiction to alcohol for many years until she finally decided to get help last fall. The episode in which she returned to her job as co-anchor and even discussed her time in rehab earned the show its largest audience in the past four years putting it in the 20 most-viewed of the week. Her appearance on “Good Morning America” offered her another opportunity to open up about her addiction and earned the show its largest audience of the week.
Elizabeth Vargas has been a respected news personality since the early 90s working for NBC and she was eventually named co-anchor of 20/20 in 2004. While Vargas has been involved on the show for more than a decade few if any of her co-workers were aware of her problem with alcohol. She admitted that she spent a lot of energy keeping her addiction a secret from the people around her and covering up her behavior at her job and at home from her family. The person who could see through her actions and knew she needed help was her husband, Marc Cohn. He confronted her about her addiction, saying she was an alcoholic and needed help. Vargas was angry but continued to live in denial as a functioning alcoholic, still maintaining her professional life in spite of her problems.
The day that Vargas realized she had to quit drinking was an afternoon she had to do a shoot for 20/20. As she showed up to get ready she realized that she was in no shape to do an interview. This realization led her to make the decision to attend rehab so that she could finally recover from her years of addiction. Initially she only stayed in her treatment program for 28 days and left against the advice of the facility. After returning home for five days she realized that they were right and that she needed to go back to the treatment center and finish her recovery process. Vargas completed her full treatment and returned to television in January.
Part of the reason that Elizabeth Vargas struggled with a drinking problem is her history of anxiety. The news anchor says that she has suffered from panic attacks when she was a child and was left alone at home when her mother went to work. Her problems with panic and anxiety continued into adulthood and she even had to take “beta blockers” because of her nervousness as an anchor on World News Tonight. One of the ways that she dealt with her anxiety was with alcohol; a habit of drinking wine every night that escalated over time. Vargas had to explain to her young sons that she now has an “allergy to alcohol” so that they would understand on some level the problem she is dealing with.
Vargas’s return to 20/20 was met with high ratings and a chance for her to share her recovery experiences with the world. Viewers curiosity about her and interest in seeing her return gave the show one of its biggest audiences in recent years. Her success in recovering from alcoholism will be inspiring to the many viewers who have tuned in to watch her as anchor on the show and as a guest on talk shows to discuss her story.
If you or someone you know is struggling with alcohol addiction, please contact us.
Cindy Nichols is the founder of 411 Intervention, a full-service intervention resource that helps individuals with addiction issues find treatment solutions. You can see an interview with Cindy here on Recovery Now TV.