The 20/20 co-anchor spoke to Health about dealing with anxiety and alcoholism, owning her fears, and finally finding peace.
In her new memoir, Between Breaths: A Memoir of Panic and Addiction ($27; amazon.com), Elizabeth Vargas, co-anchor of 20/20, opens up about her alcoholism and lifelong struggle with anxiety. We spoke to Vargas about what she wants others who suffer from the disorder to know—and the strategies that have helped her find her peace.
Feel no shame
"For many, many years, I didn't have a name for my anxiety. I didn't know that's what it was. I had learned very early, painfully, that my panic and anxiety were embarrassing or shameful somehow. I spent most of my life hiding it from everyone. It was not until I was in recovery from alcoholism that I realized how many people also struggle with it."
It's not just in your head
"People who do not suffer from anxiety have a hard time understanding it. The panic and fear are very real for those of us who suffer from it. The physical symptoms from a panic attack are real, too: the racing heart, the shakiness, the nausea."
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Own your fear to start healing
"You cannot learn to deal with anxiety if you don't first admit to someone that you are suffering from it. Talking about it will help you understand why you are feeling anxiety and how much of that fear is true. For me, turning around and facing my fears, talking about them, helped take away some of their power."
Find your peace
"Meditating as a daily practice helps me slow down my reactivity—my instinct to sprint away in terror, when I should instead pause and examine what is frightening me. What works in the moment? Breathing deep. Saying a little prayer. Telling someone what I am feeling."