Elizabeth Vargas Part 2: Falling Slowly

Over time, Vargas struggled with the exhaustion of traveling for work while trying to be a good mom and wine became her consolation.
6:31 | 09/10/16

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Transcript for Elizabeth Vargas Part 2: Falling Slowly
New Straight Talk Plus. Only at Walmart Reporter: Watch Elizabeth vargas anchor live TV news and you'd have no idea that the woman who worked so hard to be perfect is suppressing so much anxiety bordering on panic. I mean, I remember anchoring the evening news. And every single night, when Michelle, and I love Michelle, the floor manager, when she would count down, I hated it. Two minutes. And, you know, my heart would start pounding. I'm, like -- hyperventilating. 30 seconds. And literally the studio, the edges of my vision would start to swim a little. And if you watch carefully at the beginning of every newscast, you will see me lean in. And I grip the desk with my right hand. And on my left hand, which I'm holding my pen, I'm taking my engagement ring and I'm doing the edge into my thumb. Reporter: Why did you go in this business if it was going to torment you like that? I loved it. I still love it. I love telling people's stories. Reporter: And 14 years ago she found someone who helped. Her new husband, singer-songwriter Marc Cohn. They married in 2002. You know his song "Walking in Memphis." And her favorite song, "Medicine man." I love that song. Reporter: For the first time she confided to someone her deep insecurities. He calmed her anxieties by singing her to sleep. But even before they married he noticed she was also drinking at night. He thought I drank too much. And I remember him, he was angry when he said it. And grabbing my arm and saying, "You have a problem with alcohol." And that just made me really mad. Reporter: But it also got her attention. And she says she did control her drinking as she took care of son Zach, then son Sam. And continued to work hard at her job, once even through a miscarriage. And after the death of our legendary peter Jennings in 2005, she and ABC's bob woodruff were named co-anchors of "World news tonight." But 27 days after the broadcast began, bob was almost killed by an ied explosion in Iraq. It was devastating. Devastating. To everybody who worked there, I felt like I was in a hurricane of life. Reporter: She says she tried to continue alone, carrying the mantle of the broadcast as solo anchor but after a few months she was replaced by senior anchor Charlie Gibson. I was demoted. No sugarcoating it. That's what happened. Reporter: She has written she understood why he was given the job, but because she had tried so hard she felt like a failure. And add to that, over the years, the exhaustion of the travel. Trying to be a good mom. And the big financial responsibility for the family. So she started turned back to her old friend white wine as consolation. She began keeping the amount a secret. There wasn't any alcohol at that point in the house. So I would stop on my way home from work, you know, and have a glass of wine or two at a bar. And then -- Reporter: Alone? Alone, feeling really pathetic. I would actually -- I would actually pretend to talk to somebody on my cellphone. But, you know, oh, no. Oh, it's okay. Oh, no, I'm just here waiting for you. No problem, take your time. I'll be right -- you know, like, this whole facade. And pop a couple altoids and, hope you didn't come in breathing white wine fumes when you greeted the kids. Reporter: But as time goes by her husband seems to be pulling away, her glasses of wine at night are becoming entire bottles and he knows. And it made all the real problems we needed to discuss and work through frivolous in comparison. You know? "What do you want to talk about?" "Why don't you ask me about how my day is? Or what, you know, why don't you support me more?" When, "Why are you drinking two bottles of chardonnay every night?" You know? I've just gone and changed the narrative in a pretty dramatic and destructive way. Reporter: At the end of her glamorous day at work she would head into the bathroom sink where she's hiding bottles of wine. Looking at myself in the mirror, thinking, "This is who I am. Sneaking into my own bathroom to gulp down, you know, from my toothpaste cup, you know, a half cup of wine so I can get through another hour feeling good." Reporter: Soon, another red flag. Uncontrolled binges on vacation. Her sister aimie had no idea that Elizabeth had a problem with drinking until they took a holiday trip together with their kids. The summer of 2011. It was in the middle of the afternoon, and she was drunk. She told me that she drank too much because she was so unhappy. Reporter: Aimie tries to intervene but Elizabeth insists she can handle this on her own. She's not an alcoholic, she's just having a rough time. And after all she is still flawless at work. Then a year later, 2012, another family vacation. This time with Marc and the boys in Florida. That was our big vacation and my idea of a vacation was to empty the minibar by drinking everything in it. Reporter: At one point her younger son Sam comes in the hotel room. I was drinking and sleeping. And I do vividly remember, like, one afternoon Sam standing by that -- my head in the bed saying, "Mommy, when are you gonna get up?" And I remember I could smell the sunscreen and I could feel the heat from his little body, because he'd just come in from the beach. And, you know, I would die for my children, Diane. I wouldn't give a nanosecond's worth of thought to die for my children. To kill for my children. But I would die for my children. But I couldn't stop drinking for my children.

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