Last week, Elizabeth Vargas released her new memoir, Between Breaths: A Memoir of Panic and Addiction. Vargas wrote a detailed rendition of her battle with alcoholism and anxiety. Her immense vulnerability and transparency has created a much needed conversation about substance abuse and mental health.
For anyone who does not know, Vargas is a headline reporter for ABC and is a world-renown journalist. She is poised, collected, and an all-around well respected public figure. However, for several years, Vargas had been hiding a secret that was taking a toll on her career, personal life, family, and friends.
Vargas is a celebrity. She is a scholar. She is a mother. She is an alcoholic.
Her willingness to tell her story and go into the dark parts of her life has allowed her to become a relatable, public figure. She has taken the hard steps to reveal her secrets to the public, knowing that in her sharing, she is helping to break the negative stigma that comes with substance abuse and mental health issues. Her story not only gave insight into the struggle that comes with substance abuse, but also shed light upon the link between mental health and addiction.
In hearing her story and watching her Dianne Sawyer interview, I was moved to share it with others. It just takes one person to get people talking to start a movement that breaks stereotypes. When Vargas first started drinking, she viewed herself as a social drinker. She did not process that drinking to calm her anxiety was her own way of self-medicating. No one wants to admit that their social drinking has turned into heavy drinking, or become a physical need.
Vargas admits that her anxiety triggered her need for alcohol. It was the only thing that seemed to help her relax, whether it be before a recording, during an interview, in social situations, or after work when she just wanted to calm down. Her one glass of wine eventually led to two, and before she had even realized, drinking became her medicine and her calming device. Vargas hit rock bottom before she finally admitted to herself, her family, and her bosses that she was in over her head, and needed treatment.
Vargas is now two years sober and has published her memoir, Between Breaths: A Memoir of Panic and Addiction. She received some negative feedback, saying that she had released her book too soon in to her recovery. I have to disagree with this. I think that Vargas choosing to release her book is a brave move and something honorable to do. She chose to be vulnerable and has empowered those battling substance abuse and mental health issues as well as brought light to a negative stigma that needs to be broken.
I applaud Vargas for her bravery and would encourage all people to watch her interview. Let’s create a conversation about mental health and substance abuse that gives others hope and breaks existing stereotypes.
Here is the link for the interview: : http://abcnews.go.com/Health/abc-news-anchor-elizabeth-vargas-long-battle-alcoholism/story?id=41980399