Elizabeth Vargas Part 1: Grappling with Anxiety

ABC News' Elizabeth Vargas sat down with Diane Sawyer to tell the story of her life that she has not told before.
7:48 | 09/10/16

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Transcript for Elizabeth Vargas Part 1: Grappling with Anxiety
When you're walking up the street, and it's a beautiful evening, and all the people are out at the sidewalk cafes and wine bars, enjoying these lovely beautiful glasses of wine, I don't look at them and think, "I want one." But I look at them and I think, "I miss that. I miss that time when, you know, it felt so innocent and romantic." But that's just me romanticizing something that turned out to be really monstrous for me. Reporter: As Elizabeth said, she asked me to come to her home to hear the story she is telling for other people living in the shadows. The story of her life she has not told before. Hey, pal. Hi. Come in. And we're gonna sit over here. Reporter: It's like family. Yeah, exactly. Reporter: This is good. On the walls in her home, pictures of the two sons at the center of her life. Sam, now 10, Zachary, now 13. And also a photo of a journalist at the top of her field. For decades, a network correspondent and anchor, she was known for her strong reporting around the world, tough interviews, and seeking out people whose stories had been forgotten. There she was, relaxed on "Good morning America" and so steady in live, breaking news events. She took over the anchor chair from peter Jennings on 9/11. So here we are, two TV news colleagues who work down the hall from each other, getting ready to go on camera, only one of us was about to open the door on a secret life -- the one that was pulling her into the darkest depths of the ocean. She says it's an act of grace that she's alive tonight. We're ready. Stand by, please. Reporter: We're all quiet? Yes. Reporter: You wrote, "I finally found the place of grace." Yeah. Every moment of happiness is Ke, "Thank god. This is so amazing." And I took it all for granted then. Reporter: Back when she was drinking so much, she could not find an exit. There are days when you wake up and you feel so horrible that the only thing that will make you feel better is more alcohol. And that's when you're in the death spin, you know? That's when you're -- that's when people die. Reporter: How close did you come to dying? I on one occasion had what I know to be a lethal level of alcohol in my blood system, and even that didn't scare me into stopping. Can you believe it? Even that. Reporter: And she says she was just one of the millions of Americans locked in a battle with alcohol tonight. Even though from the outside she seemed to be living a golden life. But I mean, people can look you and say, "You're so lucky." Really. I am lucky. Reporter: Look what you have. Look what you do for a living. Look how you look. Look at your life. It's not like other people's problems. First of all, yes, I am -- there's -- I -- you know, I am so lucky to have my two amazing children and to have this amazing job. And to have -- Reporter: Resources for people to help and -- Resources to be able to go to treatment. You're right. I am lucky. All I can tell you is when you're in the cycle of this disease, though, that -- it doesn't matter how much you have or how little you have. It didn't matter. It leveled me. It knocked me flat on my butt. You know? I lost sight of everything. Everything. Reporter: And those children she loves more than anything on Earth watched it in fear they would lose her. Are they the hardest of the hard part? Oh, hands down. Yeah. Yeah. That's -- I don't know if I will ever forgive myself for hurting them with my drinking. Ever. And I have -- I have to find a way to -- to not -- you know, to -- some -- I don't know if I'll ever forgive myself for that. Reporter: And so she says that is why she's talking tonight. And she's written a book for all the millions of people like her and their families locked into this same wrenching journey. She writes, "We are your wives, your mothers, your daughters, your sisters, your children, your colleagues, your employees." All of them once just children with no idea what was ahead. Like the shy, curly-haired little girl. She says she was an army brat whose family had to move through 14 homes, 9 army bases, 8 schools. She says when she was still very small she started suffering from daily profound anxiety, even panic attacks. But with army discipline, she willed herself to hide her fear and panic from everyone else, through college and then starting as a local reporter out west. And because I am basically so insecure and anxious and afraid, I never, ever in my life learned to reach out for help. Ever. Reporter: And it was in local news that for the first time she says she found a kind of magic potion that helped with her anxiety. After work the news team headed out to the bar, and a couple of glasses of wine became her new best friend. It was like, "I finally feel relaxed." I think I wrote this in the book, "Everybody looked prettier and smarter and was more interesting." And me too, you know? All my insecurities would sort of fade back. Reporter: And tonight, this staggering statistic. Nearly 63% of women in trouble with alcohol say they are fighting anxiety. More on that dramatic connection later tonight. But as her story begins, Elizabeth vargas says she says she was just a social drinker who had no idea that alcoholism would slowly take over her body and take over her life. Later in the broadcast she'll show you the indelible evidence of her dangerous destination -- it was captured on camera. And there's a real temptation when you've -- you know, to whitewash what you did. "It wasn't as bad as everybody says." Or, "It wasn't as bad as I remember." And for better or for worse, I have recordings of myself on TV and audio recordings that remind me how bad it was.

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

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