Watch as ABC News 20/20 anchor Elizabeth Vargas discusses her battle with addiction and anxiety.
Read Elizabeth's cover story for the October 2016 issue of Guideposts!
Hi, Guideposts. I'm Elizabeth Vargas. I'm the anchor of 20/20 at ABC News, and I'm also the author of a new book called Between Breaths. It's a memoir on addiction and anxiety. I turned to alcohol as a relief from the really crippling anxiety that I had found myself struggling with ever since I can remember-- as a child and all through my adult life as well.
For me, it was a deeply painful and personal story to tell, but one that I know is not different from other people's stories and other people's struggles. I also talk a lot about how I finally got through, I guess, to the other side and how I live my life and how I manage the anxiety that I've always had and how I manage a life free of addiction.
I was drinking to escape an enormous unhappiness and huge anxiety, and the problem is is that when you numb the bad things, you also numb the good. So now, being sober, you feel everything-- good and bad. And that can be hard some days, but most of the time, it's really good. I'm amazed at how much I was missing out on in life.
Whether it's the combination of prayer and meditation combined with being sober and combined with not having the guilt of drinking, the secret drinking, the shame of that-- I feel much less anxious today than I ever did during those years when I was drinking alcoholically.
There is the Serenity Prayer-- God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. And sometimes a big part of that prayer is just that last part-- the wisdom to know the difference.
I think the key to having a true relationship with God and a key for prayer really working for someone in his or her life is that it be a part of your daily life. You don't just pray to God when things are really awful and you need help right now. You pray to God just to say hello or thank you. Thanks for this great day.
I hope people who are struggling with anxiety or alcohol addiction will feel less alone by reading my story. I know I felt terribly alone. It's scary to think that you may be addicted to something, and especially if the rest of your life looks like it's fine, you can be in deep denial, as I was, that there was a problem. So just reach out, trust someone, and tell someone.
There are millions of people who are addicted to some sort of substance and millions of people who feel so anxious that they sometimes think they can't get through the day. And you're not alone. And reaching out to someone appropriate, someone who might also suffer can really be the first but huge step into not feeling alone and paralyzed and isolated and scared by the possibility that you might need some help. And what's so wrong with that? Everybody needs help in something. What's so wrong with reaching out and saying, I need help with drinking?
I've spent my entire career telling other people's stories. It's been an honor. I love it. I'm innately curious about other people's lives. It's a little uncomfortable being on the other side of that. I have new respect for every time somebody has sat in a chair across from me and told me that they're nervous.
If telling my story can help somebody else feel a little less alone or help somebody else treat the addict with a little more understanding and compassion, that's a good thing.
Bob L., a recovering alcoholic, was married twice before getting sober and finding Alice, his wife of over 25 years. He shares some of what he's learned about how sobriety can positively impact relationships.