'I am an alcoholic,' says ABC News' Elizabeth Vargas as she returns to the air after treatment

  • Article by: FRAZIER MOORE , Associated Press
  • Updated: January 24, 2014 - 1:37 PM

FILE - This Oct. 8, 2013 file photo shows ABC News anchor Elizabeth Vargas at the New York Film Festival premiere of "All Is Lost" in New York. In an interview aired on "Good Morning America," on Friday, Jan. 24, 2014, Vargas publicly acknowledged that she's an alcoholic, and said it took her years to admit it. (Photo by Charles Sykes/Invision/AP, File)

Photo: Charles Sykes, ASSOCIATED PRESS - Charles Syke

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NEW YORK — ABC News reporter Elizabeth Vargas has publicly acknowledged that she's an alcoholic, and said it took her years to admit it.

In an interview aired Friday on "Good Morning America," Vargas said hiding her problem from others was exhausting.

"Even to admit it to myself was admitting, I thought, that I was a failure," said Vargas, who noted that she had reported several "20/20" specials on drinking yet couldn't acknowledge her own alcohol dependency.

She said she had suffered panic attacks since she was a child.

"I dealt with that anxiety, and with the stress that the anxiety brought, by starting to drink," she said.

Her go-to drink was wine which, increasingly during her adulthood, she used to manage her anxiety and stress. Her drinking "slowly escalated and got worse and worse," she said.

Meanwhile, she tried to bargain with herself.

"I started thinking, 'Well, you know, I'll only drink, you know, on weekends,'" she recalled. "'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.'" But those deals never work."

She said her husband, singer-songwriter Marc Cohn, wasn't fooled.

"You have a problem. You're an alcoholic," she said he told her, adding that his words "made me really angry, really angry. But he was right."

Last fall, Vargas spent several weeks in a treatment facility and is now in Alcoholics Anonymous. She told "GMA" co-anchor George Stephanopoulos in the interview taped Thursday that she's proud of confronting her problem.

She said she's "learning to accept that I'm human, that there's nothing wrong with failing, that there's nothing wrong with feeling anxiety."

And she said she's ready to resume her duties Friday night as co-anchor of "20/20."

Vargas, 51, has worked in network news since 1993, first with NBC and then ABC, which she joined in 1996.

"Is it hard not to drink?" Stephanopoulos asked her.

"Yeah," Vargas replied.

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