“There are days when you wake up and you feeling so horrible, that the only thing that will make you feel better is more alcohol. And that’s when you’re in the death spin. That’s when people die,” she said.
Describing her years as an evening news anchor, Vargas told Sawyer about the crippling anxiety she experienced before the nightly news countdown began.
• For more on Elizabeth Vargas and an excerpt from her memoir, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands now
“I hated it,” she said. “Two minutes! And, you know, my heart would start pounding. One minute! Now I’m hyperventilating. Thirty seconds! And literally the studio, the edges of my vision, would start to swim a little.”
“Why did you go into this business if it was going to torment you?” Sawyer asked.
“I loved it,” Vargas replied. “I still love it. I love telling people’s stories.”
In the interview, Vargas also told Sawyer about her inability to stop drinking for her children.
“It leveled me. It knocked me flat on my butt. I lost sight of everything, everything,” she said. “I would die for my children, but I couldn’t stop drinking for my children.”
“I don’t know if I will ever forgive myself for hurting them with my drinking, ever,” she said.
Vargas reveals even more in her new memoir Between Breaths, out Tuesday.
While the 20/20 anchor was in rehab, her husband of 12 years, singer-songwriter Marc Cohn, hired a divorce lawyer and started the process without her knowledge.
Vargas told PEOPLE exclusively in this week’s issue that the divorce was hard.
“It was brutally difficult,” Vargas, said. “I think anyone can imagine what that felt like.”