“I had these knee-high boots, and I would stick a bottle of wine in the boot,” Vargas tells PEOPLE exclusively. “Nobody looks in the boot.”
“You can hide the bottle of wine, but you can’t hide the effects of drinking for very long,” Vargas says.
Now in recovery, she recalls during her drinking days how she learned of another place to hide alcohol while she was on assignment.
“We did an hour on women and drinking called ‘Mother’s Little Helper’ where we followed them to rehab and a few months after,” says Vargas, 54. “I found out in my research the No. 1 place to hide alcohol is under the bathroom sink because it’s the one room in the house where no one will barge in on you.”
WATCH: Elizabeth Vargas on Her Struggle with Alcoholism and How She Hit Rock Bottom
• For more on Elizabeth Vargas and an excerpt from her memoir, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands now
For Vargas, sharing her story hasn’t been easy, but her goal has always been reaching those who are still struggling.
“Addiction is a hopeless, dark place,” she says. “I have great empathy for people trapped there. And I hope my story can help someone else.”