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Elizabeth Vargas admits she's an alcoholic: Anxiety fueled drinking addiction

ABC News reporter Elizabeth Vargas admits she was an alcoholic and recently completed rehab.
Peter Kramer/Getty Images

ABC News anchor Elizabeth Vargas admits she was an alcoholic for many years and is finally on the road to recovery after completing rehab.

"I am an alcoholic," Vargas told Good Morning America. "It took me a long time to admit that to myself. It took me a long time to admit it to my family."

Elizabeth, a married mother of two, began drinking in secret as a way to cope with her longtime anxiety. She said hiding her alcoholism all these years was exhausting.

"The amount of energy I expended keeping that secret and keeping this problem hidden from view was exhausting," said Vargas, 51.

"You become so isolated with the secret and so lonely, because you can't tell anyone what's happening. Even to admit it to myself was admitting that I was a failure."

Elizabeth said she had severe panic attacks as a child, when she spent a lot of time alone because her dad had gone to serve in the Vietnam War, while her mom left home every day to go to work. She said the anxiety and panic attacks continued into adulthood.

"I dealt with that anxiety, and with the stress that the anxiety brought, by starting to drink," she said. "And it slowly escalated and got worse and worse."

Her husband, Grammy-winning singer/songwriter Marc Cohn, confronted her about her alcoholism several times, but Vargas was in denial about her problem.

Vargas, who called alcoholism a progressive, deadly disease, finally decided to get help when she showed up to tape a segment for "20/20" and was too drunk to do it.

Elizabeth went to rehab in November 2013 and is doing better now. She admits she still has the urge to drink sometimes but is glad she got help for the sake of her sons, ages seven and 10.

Vargas, who's a part of Alcoholics Anonymous, said she still feels crippling anxiety at times, but has come to realize it's OK to feel anxious.

"There are lots of people who feel a lot of stress," she said. "Not everybody turns to a glass of wine or three like I did. [Anxious feelings are] not going to kill you. You have to experience them. Alcohol for me is no longer an option."

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