this is "nightline." tonight -- >> how close did you come to dying? >> addiction and hope. elizabeth vargas in a revealing interview with diane sawyer on the life-threatening addiction that almost cost her everything. >> i would die for my children. but i couldn't stop drinking for my children. >> one of her lowest moments, caught on tape. tonight, hard-earned lessons in forgiveness and fighting out of darkness into joy. plus, taking fire. >> go, go, go! >> more up close and personal. a firsthand view from inside the fight, filmed by the american soldiers as they're fighting. >> what is that? is that a camera or something? >> a rookie platoon trying to stay alive in the valley of death. [ explosion ] >> whoa. and monster music.
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good evening. thank you for joining us. tonight we're take a very personal and hopeful look at a disease that affects the lives of millions of americans. alcoholism. our own elizabeth vargas revealing for the first time to diane sawyer the depths of her addiction and the toll it took on her marriage, her children, and her career. and the moment she knew she had to stop drinking. >> there are days when you wake up and you feel so horrible that the only thing that will make you feel better is more alcohol. that's when people die. >> how close did you come to dying? >> i on one occasion had what i know to be a lethal level of alcohol in my blood system. and even that didn't scare me into stopping. >> reporter: for decades a network correspondent and anchor. >> tonight we're taking you -- >> reporter: "20/20's" elizabeth vargas was known for her strong reporting from around the world. >> i'm elizabeth vargas in baghdad. >> perugia, italy.
>> jerusalem. >> reporter: tough interviews and seeking out people whose stories had been forgotten. now she invited my colleague diane sawyer into herr home to share her own story of her battle with alcohol. one that she's written about in her new memoir, a battle that almost cost her everything, including her two sons. >> are they the hardest of the hard part? >> oh. hands down. i don't know if i will ever forgive myself for hurting them with my drinking, ever. >> reporter: that lifelong struggle with alcohoalcohol, on millions who suffer with the disease, yet on the surface elizabeth seemed to be living a golden life. >> but, i mean, people can look at you and say you're so lucky. >> i am so lucky to have my two amazing children and to have this amazing job and to have -- >> resources for people to help. >> you're right. i am lucky. all i can tell you is when you're in the cycle of this disease, though, i lost sight of
everything. everything. >> reporter: haunted by crushing insecurity and anxiety that began as a child, vargas says that as a local news anchor she discovered that a glass or two of wine helped soothe frayed nerves. >> it was like, ah, i finally feel relaxed. all my insecurities would sort of fade back. >> reporter: a startling statistic. more than 60% of women who have a problem with alcohol also struggle with anxiety. in 2002 she married singer-songwriter marc cohn. you know his song "walking in memphis." ♪ when i was walking in memphis ♪ she says she did control her drinking as she was taking care of their two sons, zack and sam. but her drinking was causing added tension in their marriage. >> he thought i drank too much. >> reporter: and so she began a telltale pattern, keeping the amount a secret. and even hiding wine under her bathroom sink. >> looking at myself in the mirror thinking this is who i am.
sneaking into my own bathroom to gulp down a half cup of wine so i can get through another hour feeling good. >> reporter: and then came the uncontrolled binges that she couldn't hide from her family in 2012. a very low point. >> that was our big vacation. and my idea of a vacation was to empty the minibar by drinking everything in it. >> reporter: her younger son, sam, finds her in the hotel room. >> i was drinking and sleeping. and i do vividly remember like one afternoon sam standing by my head in the bed saying, "mommy, when are you going to get up?" i would die for my children, diane. but i couldn't stop drinking for my children. >> reporter: after this vacation she did decide to try. her first secret visit to rehab. but a few weeks after leaving she began again. while elizabeth vargas says she was never drunk on live tv, the
drinking had now started to kro creep into her job. and it's on video. >> i drank that day. because i just -- i was shaky. it was horrible. >> reporter: it was an interview with a famous singer. >> your parents are very, very religious. >> yes. >> and you are very -- >> open. >> open. >> do you see how much i'm struggling to speak? >> reporter: after this interview word started to spread around abc that something was wrong. but days later she was back on the air in top form. but it was catching up with her. a month later after a day of secretly drinking she gets in a car to be driven home and, she says, that is the last thing she remembers. she was in a total blackout. >> what's the next thing? >> waking up in the emergency room. i drank enough to be -- have a lethal blood alcohol level. >> what was it? >> .4. >> reporter: at least 2,300 americans die every year from
exactly this kind of alcohol poisoning. elizabeth vargas finally calls her boss at abc to tell him she needs to seek treatment for addiction. >> i was too embarrassed to tell him that it was just alcohol because i thought it was so unfeminine. >> reporter: she goes back to rehab more than once. then in 2014 press leaks forced her to go public with her alcoholism. her husband tells her the marriage is over. ♪ he can't save her from herself no more ♪ these lyrics written by her husband years before they met now have new meaning for her. >> i think that must have been how he felt. because he couldn't save me. >> reporter: then finally, her turning point. when she went on one of her first vacations with her sons as a single mom. >> i don't think i gave anywhere near the thought i needed to
give to how hard that would be for me, alone. i drank again. and i ruined it. >> reporter: with a nanny helping out with her sons, she says she started with wine. then the only thing left in the house, a bottle of tequila. then she gets word that the office needs her to record her voice for a report that airs the next day. so early the next morning an abc crew arrives at her rented vacation house to tape her. it's 8:00 a.m. >> i'm drunk. >> while howard struggled with the -- while howard struggled with the so- -- while howard struggled with the s- -- i can't say it. >> i hear the struggle. >> i hear the alcohol. >> reporter: she was drinking so much her children, her boys, were terrified with worry she might die and pleaded with her to stop. and even through the fog of alcohol elizabeth says she finally grasped all the ways she
had shattered her life. >> and you get help. >> yeah. and you get help. then you can fight. >> reporter: abc news agreed to give her one last chance. with the help of a sober coach she starts the path to recovery. one that now includes regular meetings, support groups, and meditation. and then there's the hard apologies to the husband who agreed to joint custody of the children and most importantly to her sons. >> you can't just say i'm sorry, i'm sorry i hurt you, and then you know, leave it at that. i'm sorry i drank. i'm sorry i scared you. i'm sorry that i wasn't there for you. i'm sorry. i'm so sorry. >> reporter: tonight her ex-husband has issued a statement, and we'll post it online. but he says as always he supports elizabeth in her recovery and he applauds tonight's program, hoping it will help countless people and their families too. and he also writes that even in divorce he and elizabeth will
work together to be loving parents to their two incredible boys. >> what is it you most want your children to say? what's the thing you most love to hear from them? >> that my mom fought for us and fought for herself. that she stared into the abyss and pulled herself back out. that's what i would like them to say. up next, war through the eyes of american soldiers as they're living, staying alive in the valley of death. plus -- mother monster gives birth to a perfect illusion. hold onto your forks. endless shrimp is back at red lobster. that means you get to try as much as you want... ...of whatever flavors are calling your name. seriously. like new garlic sriracha-grilled shrimp. it's a little spice... ...a little sizzle... ...and a lot just right. and try new parmesan peppercorn shrimp. helloooo crispy goodness.
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♪ the horror of war has been documented for centuries, but never before like this. a group of american soldiers deployed to one of the most dangerous places in the world, strapping cameras to their helmets, capturing combat from the front lines. here's my "nightline" co-anchor dan harris. >> [ bleep ], man. those are close as [ bleep ]. >> reporter: in some ways it may look like a video game. but this is as real as it gets. [ explosion ] >> welcome to afghanistan. >> reporter: this is the story of a rookie platoon in the army's 101st airborne. >> behind that wall, sir. >> reporter: filmed in a way we have never seen before. through the eyes of the soldiers themselves. >> what is that? is that a camera or something? >> reporter: in 2010 kyle
boucher's unit was deployed to one of the most dangerous places on earth. >> how did it come about that you guys started filming your lives? >> the guys wanted to have memories of the deployment. if they wanted to go back years later and say hey, you know, this is what i did. >> dateline normandy beachhead, june 6th, 1944. >> reporter: the tradition of sharing war stories has been around as long as people have been fighting. but it was only a couple of decades ago that we were able to witness war as it unfolded on screen. >> behind me is the emergency wing of the third field hospital here in the south vietnamese capital of saigon. >> reporter: first in black and white. then technicolor. but now with the help of tiny mountable cameras for the first time we can see war filmed by soldiers themselves. [ gunfire ] the concept of a new series on the discovery channel "taking fire." >> this is my first patrol and i'm thinking, it's a beautiful country. up there when the sun comes up i'm wondering, man, like this is so cool.
>> reporter: kyle boucher was just 22 years old when he left home for afghanistan. >> hi, mom. >> we really didn't have any idea how bad it was going to get. >> go! go! >> reporter: and bad it got because boucher was sent to the afghan border with pakistan, a remote taliban-held region called the korengal valley, nicknamed the valley of death by the bullet-battered battalions stationed there. 42 american servicemen lost their lives in that valley. hundreds more wounded. [ gunfire ] >> where's it coming from? >> i don't know, dude. behind me. >> reporter: in the show it looks like you guys are sitting ducks. incoming fire all the time. was it actually that bad? >> yeah. we were at the bottom of a valley. the taliban could just creep right over the peak of a mountain, drop some small arms fire and rpgs on us, disappear into the mountains like it was nothing. >> reporter: were people getting hit by fire or shrapnel while taking showers, eating lunch? >> yeah, all the time. >> hear that bomb come in
screaming overhead. it's awesome. >> reporter: six years later kyle boucher is one of the stars of "taking fire." along with his close friend and fellow soldier j.j. mccool. >> holy cow. these rounds are hitting inches away from me. >> reporter: mccool was the first in the platoon to rig his helmet with cameras. suffice it to say the trend took off. for this series the department of defense did have the final sign-off on what footage made the cut. >> this was filmed by us. we didn't have reporters out there, journalists. >> reporter: their pov footage tells the raw story of a year on the front lines. the panic -- >> we've only got two rockets left. >> reporter: the adrenaline. >> whoa. they're still shooting. >> reporter: and some pretty funny pranks. >> candy has always been somewhat of a passion of mine.
you didn't really have to try and hide something from anyone else because no one in our platoon will steal something, even as trivial as a piece of candy. >> mccool. he probably has the best care packages. so when he's sleeping we'd, you know, sneak into his boxes and steal his chocolates and mountain dews and stuff. >> reporter: while there are moments of fear and concern and stress, you're also having fun. and you that like each other. >> yeah. we loved each other. we still love each other. i'd do anything for any of those guys at the drop of a hat. >> reporter: woven into that love, the pain of the losses they suffered. comrades who never made it out of the valley of death. >> got hurt. but he'll be all right. >> in my platoon two guys got killed. ben chisholm and charlie high. and throughout our battalion i think we took somewhere around 30 to 40. it was a lot of guys that got killed. >> reporter: how did that impact you? >> i mean, there's really no way to describe it until, you know, you've been in combat and lost
your brothers. >> reporter: do you think you or any of your comrades suffer from ptsd? >> yeah, i imagine we do. when you go through a traumatic event for a long period of time i don't see how it couldn't affect you, you know. >> reporter: boucher says he's learned to cope in his own way. since his tour he's left the service to become a firefighter, a job where he can help people and still feel that rush of adrenaline. taking fire for him is a chance to honor his fallen friends. >> i feel lucky to be able to have my brothers' stories told and memorialized forever. ♪ jingle bells >> reporter: it is the importance of sharing stories, one of the reasons why "taking fire" has partnered with the headstrong project, a non-profit providing top-quality free mental health care to veterans. >> one of the things i love about "taking fire" is they're telling the personal stories of the wartime experience. this is the time in american history where fewer people have served than in any other point
in time. very few people are related or know somebody who has served in these wars. and so it's really important to tell those stories. >> reporter: just last week the headstrong project partnered with the wildly popular humans of new york. zack ischol told his story of serving as a marine in iraq, while others spoke candidly about losing loved ones to combat or suicide. the posts got hundreds of thousands of responses. >> in this country there is an incredible stigma with mental health and with getting help. the veterans who stepped forward to share their stories with millions of people, all are demonstrating incredible acts of moral courage. >> i was finding i just couldn't keep anything in anymore. >> it's leading to us being able to save people's lives. >> it was all around me when i was on that other side. >> reporter: for the "taking fire" platoon, part of their story, the lifelong bond they forged in the valley of death. in fact, the group just had a reunion. one last gathering before "taking fire" premieres to the world. >> i'll never be as close with
anybody as i am with those guys. you know, you come home, could look at a guy that you grew up with, and feel like you don't even know him. a buddy you went to war with, it's like you've known him your whole life. >> our thanks to dan for that report. "taking fire" premieres tuesday september 13th on discovery. and next -- ♪ ♪ it wasn't love ♪ it was a perfect illusion >> the little monsters are going gaga over a perfect illusion. i'm claudine and i quit smoking with chantix. smoking's a monkey on my back. it was, it was always controlling your time, your actions, your money. it had me. it had me. i would not be a non-smoker today if it wasn't for chantix. along with support, chantix (varenicline) is proven to help people quit smoking. chantix reduced my urge to smoke some people had changes in behavior, thinking or mood, hostility, agitation, depressed mood and suicidal thoughts or actions while taking or after stopping chantix.
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and finally tonight, the little monsters are having a ball. lady gaga is back. ♪ it was a perfect illusion after a lengthy hiatus from the charts, lady gaga is back. dropping her first pop single in three years. "perfect illusion." coming on the heels of her recent split with fiance taylor kinney, leaving some to wonder was her bad romance -- ♪ bad romance -- a perfect illusion? ♪ it wasn't love
not so much. the mother monster telling reporters the song is a commentary on the perfect illusion of social media. it quickly rocketed to the top of the billboard's trending 140, proving once again that gaga lives for the applause. ♪ i live for the applause, applause, applause ♪ it was albert einstein who said reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one. thank you for watching abc news. join us for "good morning america" tomorrow and as always for online on abcnews.com and our facebook page. good night, america. >> welcome to armed forces appreciation week. you've joined us for a very special show. lieutenant commander jason davenport of the navy reserves is about to face a question worth $250,000, and he is just three questions away from the million. can he do it? we're about to find out on "who wants to be a millionaire." [dramatic music] ♪
hey, everybody. i'm chris harrison. welcome to the show. are you guys ready for a very special "millionaire" today? [cheers and applause] we might meet a millionaire today. our returning contestant has been a part of the navy for almost 20 years. there's no one, no one i would rather give $1 million to. from las vegas, nevada, please welcome back lieutenant commander jason davenport. [cheers and applause] hey, buddy. >> thanks. >> welcome. >> thank you. [cheers and applause] back at it. >> coming in hot. >> [sighs] >> you're at $100,000. you're three away from that million. before we get into making that million-- >> let's do it. >> what does this money mean to you? >> well, first off, i'm engaged. just got engaged recently. >> congratulations. >> thank you. [cheers and applause] my--my-- [laughs] my beautiful fiancée's probably gonna want a better wedding now. more extravagant. >> that's her right back here behind tom. >> yes. >> i was wondering why she had