Elizabeth Vargas Part 4: How Her Family Tried to Help Her

Vargas said her parents, sister and brother all took time out of their lives to try to stop her from drinking.
5:12 | 09/10/16

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Transcript for Elizabeth Vargas Part 4: How Her Family Tried to Help Her
Reporter: In 2012 after that terrifying lost afternoon, that blackout, Elizabeth vargas finally calls her boss at ABC to tell him she needs to seek treatment for addiction. I was too embarrassed to tell him that I -- it was just alcohol, because I thought it was so unfeminine. Reporter: Unfeminine? Like, to be a drunk is just, like, you know -- even now I have a hard time saying that word. So I told him alcohol and ambien. Reporter: With the support of ABC she goes back to that rehab facility for a full month. And while there she met this man, earl Hightower, one of the nation's leading experts on alcoholism, intervention and recovery. He says instantly he saw that she had made a career of hiding her fears and resisting help and she wasn't ready to face the truth. I just thought, "This is the kinda woman that really -- nobody C- is gonna get this woman sober." There's no way we're gonna sit down and go, "Look, here's the deal," and she's gonna go, "Oh, okay." Really? Reporter: He tried to wake her up, warning she's an alcoholic and cannot drink safely. God, you had me nailed. Reporter: But back then she was so sure it was impossible she was an alcoholic since she had no immediate family history. She didn't know, as we said, heavy drinking alone can lead you into a cycle of the full disease. This is Dr. Deirdra roach, of the national institutes of health. She's program director at the institute that studies alcoholism. Elizabeth asks her how the heavy use of alcohol actually alters the chemistry in your cells and the structure of your Brian. Heavy drinking over time hijacks certain processes in the brain. The physiology of the brain. So that it begins to crave alcohol just to feel Normal. Just to feel Normal. You're no longer drinking for the enjoyment of it. Just to feel okay. Reporter: If you check our website you'll find a link to the 11 questions that help you gauge if you have a problem with alcohol. Only half the risk comes from any family history. I wrestle with, was I born an alcoholic, did I become an alcoholic, when did I become an alcoholic? What's an alcoholic versus a problem drinker? I can answer all those. It doesn't matter if you were born an alcoholic or you became one, you are one. Reporter: And something else tonight, that growing body of evidence about the link between alcoholism and anxiety, especially among women. It is causing experts to broaden their approach to treatment and recovery. How many here also have anxiety? Very badly. All of us. Oh, my god. Reporter: This is the Caron treatment center in Pennsylvania. For two hours a group of strangers find so much in common in their lives. Stigma around addiction. Isolation was a huge thing for me. Hiding. Lying. Sneaking. Reporter: On average an addict will relapse three to four times before they get sober and alcoholics who have anxiety are at twice the risk of relapse. What's in there's coming out. And if you don't work on it and get on it and get straight with it, it's gonna come out sideways, it's gonna come out in relapse. Reporter: Which is what happened back in 2012, after Elizabeth's first full month of rehab. It only took me, like, six months, seven months later before I was back to looking at myself in that bathroom mirror wondering, how did I get here? You just want to shake her and say, "Why are you doing this to yourself?" Reporter: Elizabeth heads off to rehab again. Then afterwards a few days home before she has to return and this time it's her brother Chris who flies in from his home in California to take her. I walked into her apartment and she was completely out of it. It had been 7:30 in the morning, a couple of empty wine bottles beside her bed. And I remember wanting to tell her, you can walk into a room and you can light up that room. But don't show up drunk. Reporter: By now it is early 2014 and after the latest rehab she's about to be hit with a double blow. First the secret she's kept for so long explodes around her. Press reports force her to do an interview. She sits down with our colleague George stepanopolos but says she's terrified. Not ready. You're an alcoholic. I am. I am an alcoholic. Reporter: Then, just a few days after that interview her husband Marc says their marriage is over. There's a lyric in that song "Medicine man," which he wrote long before they met. But it says, "He can't save her from herself. Who's going to help the medicine man?" ? He can't save her from herself no more ? I think that must have been how he felt. Because he couldn't save me. I could only save me. Reporter: Her favorite song, now the soundtrack of so much regret. And it's about him not being able to help her. Reporter: And coming up, the

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