Elizabeth Vargas Part 3: 'I Was So Deluded and in Denial'

Vargas went to a rehab facility for the first time in 2012 but started drinking again a few weeks after coming home.
6:49 | 09/10/16

Coming up in the next {{countdown}} {{countdownlbl}}

Coming up next:

{{nextVideo.title}}

{{nextVideo.description}}

Skip to this video now

Now Playing:

{{currentVideo.title}}

Comments
Related Extras
Related Videos
Video Transcript
Transcript for Elizabeth Vargas Part 3: 'I Was So Deluded and in Denial'
Do not! Do too! Reporter: If you were watching TV several years ago, you may have seen a journalist and a secret drinker doing a series of reports on alcoholism. I was struck by how many of these women said they kept their drinking a secret. Oh yeah, we're some sneaky bitches. I still remember in my interview, "Oh, we alcoholics, we're sneaky bitches." You know? And I was like, "Oh, my god." But she's right. Reporter: That was an interview with marry Karr, the brilliant professor and author and Elizabeth says afterwards, she impulsively asked Karr to lunch. Was so nervous to even tell another alcoholic this. And I said, "I think I might be an alcoholic." And she said, "I am so sorry." I'm so sorry you're going through this. Reporter: Karr offers help. Elizabeth resists, though she says she never forgot the powerful kindness of Karr's words. Because so few people tell an -- you -- we all look at the alcoholic with revulsion. And, like, get -- you know, "Get it together, for god's sake. What is wrong with you?" And that just makes you feel so horrible about yourself. Reporter: It was only after that Florida vacation in 2012 that Elizabeth vargas decided her drinking was enough of a problem she would tell her bosses that she had a medical issue, but secretly she was making a visit to her first rehab facility, where the minimum stay is usually 30 days. I was so deluded and in denial that I convinced them to let me come for just two weeks. Crazy. Reporter: Yeah. Crazy. Denial's a big part of my store crazy. Reporter: A few weeks after leaving, she starts drinking again. As she returns to work. This is the moment Elizabeth is about to cross another bridge toward the disease. In the past she had always been able to keep a firewall between her private drinking and her professional life. The firewall will now begin to crumble. I looked at myself on that shoot and I was -- I looked horrible. Reporter: She has always had hangovers but they used to go away. But now, the chemistry of her body so changed by alcohol, it's created a cycle of demand. It's a bad, bad place to be. Your heart doesn't feel like it's beating. It feels like it's fluttering. And it's not even like your hands are shaky. Your entire body is shaky. You're shaky inside. And the only thing that would stop it would be to drink some more. Reporter: And as you watch what happens next, we have something important to point out. There are no scenes of Elizabeth vargas ever drinking on live TV at ABC news. Her drinking creeps into her work when she is recording on video. I drank -- drank that day because I just -- I was shaky. You know, it was horrible. Reporter: It was an interview with a famous singer. Remember, for 30 years Elizabeth vargas had always been so crisp and in control on camera. Suddenly, she's not. Your parents are very, very religious. Yes. And you are very -- Open. Open. Do you see how much I'm struggling to speak? Reporter: The editors had to take out a lot of her questions so that the piece could even go on the air. After this interview, for the first time, word spread inside ABC that something had been wrong with Elizabeth on a shoot. But she says she'd taken the red eye and wasn't feeling well and in a few days she's back on the air, functioning in top form. And since she deliberately kept her drinking a secret from her colleagues, the producers didn't guessed what it really was. A month goes by. Everything is fine. Then, another interview. I woke up that morning. And I was feeling horrible -- that shaky horrible fluttery heart and -- horrible. And I was on my way to the shoot. And I remember we were going down Columbus avenue. And I saw a liquor store. Reporter: She has the car stop. She buys wine. She drinks some of the bottle before she starts taping. She looks shaky, but conducts the interview, then after the cameras stop rolling, she says she slipped into a nearby room and secretly drank again. And what happens next will be the moment that forces her to confess addiction to her bosses at ABC. She gets in a car to be driven home, fastens her seatbelt. And that, she says, is the last thing she remembers. An award-winning network anchor is in a total blackout. What's the next thing? Waking up in the emergency room. I don't know where I went. I don't know what I did. I don't know what I drank. I drank enough to be -- have a lethal blood alcohol level. Reporter: What was it? 0.4. Reporter: 0.4 is the blood alcohol level that the doctors say killed singer Amy winehouse. At least 2,300 Americans die each year from exactly this kind of alcohol poisoning. The central nervous system can shut down, your heart can stop. So what was it that saved her? We know that she was seen wandering near a park, this park, Riverside in New York, late afternoon, still daylight. You don't know how you got to Riverside park? Nope. Reporter: And she says according to her husband, a stranger, was driving by and saw the unsteady person in high heels and work clothes. A woman saw me. Said, "Would you like a ride home," I guess. I don't know. I told her my address. I was able to tell her my address. Reporter: So a complete stranger sees you. She said she saw some men nearby that she didn't like the look of who might have been, at that point, probably seeing me as a vulnerable person. And she brought me back here. And at that point I was apparently unconscious. Reporter: Unconscious, in the lobby of her apartment building. Maybe somebody seeing this will help you finish the portrait of that. Yeah. You know, part of me is almost afraid somebody will, you know? It's like, it can be very difficult to confront. Reporter: Her husband Marc races down, and calls 911. The woman who had brought her there leaves a card with her phone number. Later, Elizabeth calls but the call is not returned. So all she knows is that out there somewhere tonight is an anonymous stranger who had the kindness to stop and save a life. And she stopped -- And she stopped. God bless her.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

{"duration":"6:49","description":"Vargas went to a rehab facility for the first time in 2012 but started drinking again a few weeks after coming home.","mediaType":"default","section":"ABCNews/2020","id":"41989241","title":"Elizabeth Vargas Part 3: 'I Was So Deluded and in Denial'","url":"/2020/video/elizabeth-vargas-part-deluded-denial-41989241"}