Anchors Away, Come Back to Triumph
Our roving reporter Jami Kelmenson stopped by Barnes & Noble Union Square in NYC last week to hang with ABC News 20/20 co-anchor Elizabeth Vargas, whose new book Between Breaths chronicles her struggle with, and triumph over, anxiety-fueled alcoholism.
First, ABC News anchor Dan Harris had an on-air panic attack which propelled him on a journey to find inner peace by meeting Eckhart Tolle, Deepak Chopra, and other spiritual gurus, to land on meditation as a way to make him “10% Happier.” Now, we learn that ABC News 20/20 co-anchor (and former ABC World News Tonight anchor) Elizabeth Vargas needed a little more than “10%” as her new book, Between Breaths, which chronicles her struggle with anxiety-fueled alcoholism, reveals.
Both books are on my nightstand which makes me wonder in those dark moments around three a.m. when I am having trouble sleeping: Does this mean that I’m a news junkie, a book junkie, or some other kind?
In a quest to understand why these two stories are resonating with me now, I stopped by Barnes & Noble Union Square in NYC last Wednesday night to meet Elizabeth Vargas (the fact that ABC World News Tonight anchor and hottie David Muir was on hand to moderate the discussion was an absolute bonus!) David’s adoration toward Elizabeth bordered on deep compassion with a healthy dose of admiration and unabashed acknowledgement of both her inner and outer beauty.
I saw the 20/20 special and was shocked that this beautiful, accomplished, sophisticated-yet-down-to-earth face of television news was hiding such pain from her viewers, her family, and herself. I was so inspired by her authenticity I had to let her know how much I admire her bravery and spirit. And she lived up to the picture she paints to the world – poised, graceful, well-spoken, approachable – yet she was also deeply empathetic to one audience member who admitted he was in recovery and how difficult his own journey has been and still is. It was as though the jarring lights of the big box retailer were somehow dimmed, along with the voices of all of us listening in, as Elizabeth responded with poignancy how sorry she was for his struggle as if to softly suggest, I’ve got your back. On the other side of the emotional scale, I witnessed her ebullience at the sight of an old friend (or colleague) who evidently surprised her by standing on the line to have her sign a book, at which point she was in the girly-girl mode of “let’s do lunch!”
Like the Elizabeth of years past, I certainly enjoy my glass or three of Chardonnay with the girls after work. And living in NYC can make anyone more than a little jittery, right? Her story provides insight into how she progressed into a dangerous spiral that required two stints in rehab, but not before unraveling her marriage, and nearly losing her job and her life. From her heart, she cautioned, “I would die for my children, I would kill for my children, but I couldn’t stop drinking for my children.” A cautionary lesson for any woman who puts too much pressure on herself.
Thankfully, ABC News is a forgiving employer – if not one adept at spotting a good news angle in the hordes of coverage on addiction and stress that no doubt followed the admissions of two of its most shining stars. Elizabeth is still anchoring 20/20 and Dan Harris is the co-anchor of Nightline and weekend Good Morning America.
Both Elizabeth’s and Dan’s stories open our eyes to the fact that the person who seems to have it better than you – and who has better hair than you – may actually not (Dan admits to his phantom thinning hair obsession, among many other neuroses, in his book). By taking a stand to admit their own personal failings, they pave the way for the rest of us to be a little more mindful when it comes to that extra drink at dinner or happy hour. By doing so, we not only think differently about the people in our lives who may be struggling, but consider how enabling the bright lights of big cities are in fueling the potential in all of us to hide behind our own personal limelight.
Jami Kelmenson is a freelance writer and blogger living and loving in New York City. She is currently seeking representation for her first novel, Crossing Paths. Read of her ongoing tales of travel, life, love and the pursuit of getting published in NYC at her blog, www.jamikellywriter.tumblr.com.
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