Elizabeth Vargas Part 5: Hitting Rock Bottom

Vargas said it was difficult to realized the pain her drinking had caused the family and colleagues she loved and cared about.
7:05 | 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 5: Hitting Rock Bottom
Reporter: This is a home movie dad is taking of mom and the children, back when the children were young. Back before they watched her fade into the alcohol that was carrying her away. Did you ever endanger them? No. Reporter: Are you sure? I don't think so. No. I never drove under the influence. Reporter: Never? No. I don't own a car here. But let me just say something. Because I didn't physically endanger my children doesn't mean I didn't devastate them or put them in danger emotionally or psychologically. Reporter: Like that last time in 2014. She's back to work. Her husband Marc is now filing for divorce. So she decides to take a vacation, renting a house on the beach in California and taking someone with her to help with the children full-time. It all seems so glamorous and privileged unless you know the unraveling inside. It's her youngest son's birthday. You were going to make a coconut -- Cake. Sam's favorite. I had all -- that whole vacation planned. And it was his birthday and I bought him a little iPad mini and wrapped it all up in shiny gold paper. And I don't think I gave anywhere near the thought I needed to give to how hard that would be for me. Alone. And I drank. I drank again. And I ruined it. Reporter: Starting with wine, she says, and then the only thing left in the house, a bottle of tequila. Then, she gets word that the office needs to record her voice for a report to air the next day. So, early the next morning, an ABC crew arrives at her rented vacation house to tape her. It's 8:00 A.M. I'm drunk. I remember that day, sitting there. And I could read the words and I couldn't make my mouth work to say the words. Reporter: The tape was unusable. Again, it was made more than two years ago. I listened to it to the first -- for the first time today. Reporter: And? It's really hard. Reporter: The woman we all thought of as never stumbling, even on live TV can be heard on audio tape slurring. While Howard struggled with the so -- while Howard struggled with the so -- while Howard struggled with the so -- I can't say it. Reporter: She's unable to master simple words. I hear the struggle. I hear the alcohol. I literally felt sick to my stomach, but I'm glad I listened to it. Reporter: Why? Because I never want to be there again. Reporter: She was drinking so much, her children, her boys, were terrified with worry that she might die. And pleaded with her to stop. 3,000 miles away, her bosses at ABC are alerted urgently that Elizabeth is drinking again. She's coherent enough to call her sister and say, I'm in trouble. And it was the first time that she called and said, "I need help." And I'll never forget that. It's still really hard to talk about because I think I instantly knew, like, "This is bad." Reporter: Her sister, her brother, a friend all book the next flight to be with her. Elizabeth also manages to call a producer at ABC who knows a recovering alcoholic who lives near her rented house. An actor and director who races over. He comforts her children as she goes into detox. He hands her a rosary and arranges a kind of sobriety coach to ride with her back to New York to face what she has done. I honestly, I thought it was all over. I thought she was gonna lose the boys, and I thought she was gonna lose her job. We all did. Reporter: And even through the fog of alcohol, Elizabeth says, she finally grasped all the ways she had shattered her life. The anguish of her children pleading with her to stop drinking. The marriage she lost. The chance to do the work she loved, in peril. She says in this moment she was buckled to her knees by the unbearable shame. Ashamed. Humiliated. A lot of pain, you know? Reporter: Wreckage. A lot of wreckage in its wake. Reporter: This woman who says she spent a career trying to hide any weakness, finally decides to give up, and reach for help. And you get help. Yeah. And you get help. Then you can fight. Reporter: ABC news agrees to give her one last chance. Thank god they gave me one more chance. Thank god. Reporter: She makes a calendar of all the days she was in fact drunk and what that did to those around her. She says she was shocked out of denial. And she began apologizing to her colleagues who had to redo the work because of her drinking. She apologizes to the family who gave up so much of their lives to try to help her. And to the husband who agreed they would have joint custody of the children. And most of all, with the children, she apologizes in wrenching detail. You can't just say, "I'm sorry. I'm sorry I hurt you," and then, you know, leave it at that. "I'm sorry I drank. I'm sorry I scared you. I'm sorry that I wasn't there for you. I'm sorry I fell asleep and missed your recital. I'm sorry. I'm so sorry." Reporter: And she says it's her promise to them to spend every day of her new life trying to be the mother she always wanted to be. What is it you most want your children to say? What's the thing you'd most love to hear from them? That my mom fought for us and fought for herself. That she stared into the abyss and pulled herself back out. That's what I would like them to say. Reporter: Tonight Marc Cohn has issued a statement, and we'll post it online. But he says, as always, he supports Elizabeth in her recovery and that the two of them are working together to be loving parents to their two incredible boys.

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

{"duration":"7:05","description":"Vargas said it was difficult to realized the pain her drinking had caused the family and colleagues she loved and cared about. ","mediaType":"default","section":"ABCNews/2020","id":"41989243","title":"Elizabeth Vargas Part 5: Hitting Rock Bottom","url":"/2020/video/elizabeth-vargas-part-hitting-rock-bottom-41989243"}