Photos provided by the Stark County District Library
It isn’t weak to ask for help.
That’s the message television journalist Elizabeth Vargas plans to deliver when she speaks about her struggle against alcoholism and anxiety to an audience gathered the evening of September 12 at Canton Palace Theatre. Her 6:30 p.m. talk kicks off the Stark County District Library’s “Speaking of Books” series of lectures, which also will include a talk at Palace Theatre on October 30 by David Sheff, the author of “Beautiful Boy: A Father’s Journey Through His Son’s Addiction.”
“We know that opiate addiction is high in the minds of Stark County residents,” said Jen Walencik, community engagement specialist for the library district. “These two author events give two different viewpoints on addiction.”
Words by Vargas will focus on her years-long battle against alcoholism and anxiety, which feed off of each other, said Vargas in a recent telephone interview.
“It’s a very strong link, particularly in women,” said Vargas, noting that a study showed that 60 percent of women battling alcoholism also struggle with anxiety. “What I didn’t realize was that at the end of my drinking, the alcohol was fueling my anxiety. Stopping drinking made it easier to manage my anxiety.”
Not that overcoming either alcoholism or anxiety can be achieved by anyone with few difficulties. Vargas notes in her book and lectures that she faltered in her journey to sobriety multiple times following stints in rehabilitation facilities.
“If it was easy, we wouldn’t have a problem,” she said. “You have to say, ‘OK, it happened. Let’s dust ourselves off and try again.’ You don’t just give in and say it’s too hard.”
In her book, Vargas highlighted two incidents during her rehabilitation that now serve as metaphors in her message of recovery.
Vargas recalled being blindfolded and put in a rope maze, then told to find her way out. Others at the facility were successful before her in realizing that the only way to exit the maze was to ask for help.
“I’ve always been someone who overthinks things. I kept asking myself, ‘Why can’t I find my way out?’ ” said Vargas. “It was the same way with my drinking. I was so high functioning and so disciplined, I kept asking, ‘Why can’t I get this under control?’ Asking for help is such a difficult thing to do.”
Also, she recalled, the path one takes to emerge from the darkness of any form of addiction and anxiety is clearly illustrated by the manner in which she climbed a mountain during another stay in a rehab facility. The trek was difficult and the journey to the top was tiring—seeming almost impossible at times.
“I just focused on taking one step at a time, and I made it to the summit,” Vargas recalled. “That’s what life is all about, and that’s what recovery is all about. One step at a time. One day at a time.”
All lectures in Stark County District Library’s “Speaking of Books” series will be at 6:30 p.m. at Canton Palace Theatre. Lectures are free, but tickets must be reserved at StarkLibrary.org or inside any branch library.
Elizabeth Vargas, television journalist and author of “Between Breaths: A Memoir of Panic and Addiction”
David Sheff, author of “Beautiful Boy: A Father’s Journey Through His Son’s Addiction” and “Clean: Overcoming Addiction and Ending America’s Greatest Tragedy”
Ramona Robinson, former Cleveland television news anchor and author of “A Dirt Road to Somewhere: An Emmy Award-Winning Anchor’s Incredible Journey of Faith Over Fear”
Kwame Alexander, poet and writer of children’s fiction and author of “The Crossover,” which received the 2015 John Newbery Medal for “most distinguished contribution to literature for children”