Elizabeth Vargas Returns to TV After Rehab: "I Am an Alcoholic"

Celebrity News Jan. 24, 2014 AT 10:15AM
Journalist Elizabeth Vargas at Lincoln Center on Oct. 8, 2013 in NYC Elizabeth Vargas returned to TV on Jan. 24 following her stint in rehab last fall and admitted, "I am an alcoholic." Credit: Jim Spellman/WireImage.com

Elizabeth Vargas is starting a new chapter. The 51-year-old journalist returned to TV on Friday, Jan. 24, following her stint in rehab last fall for alcoholism. In a pre-taped interview with Good Morning America's George Stephanopoulos, Vargas admitted, "I am. I am an alcoholic."

"It took me a long time to admit that to myself," she explained. "It took me a long time to admit it to my family, but I am."

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Vargas shared back in November that she was seeking treatment for alcohol abuse. She left rehab two weeks after her announcement, tweeting: "Hello everyone! I am home, and so grateful for all your support and well wishes. I am so much better and taking it one day at a time."

The 20/20 anchor told GMA Friday that she decided she needed help after she realized she was "in no shape" to do an interview one day. Vargas shared that wine was her drink of choice. "At night I -- that was a ritual," she said. "I should've realized it was a problem way back when Zachary, my oldest son, was born. And he used to call my nightly glass of wine 'mommy's juice.' You know, and I thought that was hysterical. It didn't occur to me that that was a problem."

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Vargas, mom to Zachary, almost 11, and Samuel, 7, said her husband, Marc Cohn, had previously told her to get help, but she didn't listen.

"'You have a problem. You're an alcoholic,'" she recalled Cohn saying. "It made me really angry, really angry. But he was right."

Vargas said her triggers to drink were stress and anxiety. "That's exhausting, to live like that," she explained. "And it becomes very easy to think 'I deserve this glass of wine. I'm so stressed out . . .'"

"I started thinking 'Well, you know, I'll only drink, you know, on weekends. I'll only drink, you know, two glasses of wine a night. I won't drink on nights before I have to get up and do Good Morning America," Vargas recalled. "But those deals never work."

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Now, Vargas said she leans on family and friends to help her through stressful times. "I'm part of AA," she said. "I have a sponsor. I have great, great friends who I love and who love me."

How did she know when she was ready to leave treatment?

"It's a psychic change, I think. I mean, it's learning to accept that I'm human," she said. "That there's nothing wrong with failing, that there's nothing wrong with feeling anxiety."

Vargas will share more of her story when she returns to 20/20 on Friday, Jan. 24.

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