Luann de Lesseps Drank 7 Drinks a Day Before Her Arrest — and Has Lost 8 Lbs. Since Getting Sober

"I couldn't continue living the way that I was living — the only place where I felt like I was going to be okay was rehab," Luann de Lesseps tells PEOPLE of her decision to enter a treatment facility

Luann de Lesseps says her “embarrassing” Christmas Eve arrest was the wake-up call she needed to get her life in order.

Last year, the Real Housewives of New York City star, who always drank alcohol socially, began drinking more heavily — at least seven drinks a day — following her August split from ex-husband Tom D’Agostino Jr. — just seven months after they tied the knot in a New Years’ Eve wedding in Palm Beach, Florida.

“I would start with a martini and maybe have two martinis, and then get into the wine at dinner,” de Lesseps, 52, tells PEOPLE in this week’s issue, on stands Friday. “Then I’d have a little bit of vodka soda going out.”

  • For more from de Lesseps, pick up this week’s issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday
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Allison Michael Orenstein

Eventually, the alcohol wasn’t numbing the pain. “I would have the hair of the dog drink the next day, and drink more, and it didn’t feel good. Alcohol just stopped working for me,” she says.

As the holidays drew near, the reality star, who was previously married to Count Alexandre de Lesseps — with whom she shares two children, son Noel and daughter Victoria — decided to celebrate in Palm Beach, a somewhat dubious choice given it was the location of her wedding just one year earlier.

“I couldn’t put my finger on why I was feeling so anxious and why I was drinking more,” de Lesseps says of returning to the scene of her failed nuptials. “It makes sense now.”

On Dec. 23, she was arrested for disorderly intoxication after she ended up in the wrong hotel room at the Colony Hotel and clashed with officers who arrived on the scene. She was charged with disorderly intoxication, battery on an officer, resisting arrest with violence and threatening a public servant; she’s due in court April 13 and faces possible jail time if convicted.

RELATED VIDEO: Luann de Lesseps Brings PEOPLE Inside Her ‘Eclectic’ Kitchen

Following her arrest, de Lesseps entered a treatment facility and began focusing on her personal well-being. Since her time in rehab, de Lesseps has turned a new leaf: She hasn’t resumed drinking, and has also given up smoking, lost 8 lbs. and gotten into yoga and meditation.

  • For more on Luann de Lesseps, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on stands Friday

She’s also resumed filming of RHONY: “I was so happy to come back to my work, to come back to my life,” she says.

For the indefinite future, De Lesseps is choosing to refrain from drinking alcohol — but she’s taking things day by day.

“Everybody around me says, ‘Luann, you’re not an alcoholic.’ I don’t know if I am or not,” she says. “All I know is that not drinking works for me right now. Will I drink again? I don’t know. I miss good red wine. Not to say that I’ll never have good red wine again.”

“Who knows where we’ll all be tomorrow,” she adds. “For today, that’s the choice that I’m making for myself.”

De Lesseps will appear on Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen on Wednesday at 11 p.m. ET, and The Real Housewives of New York City airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. ET on Bravo.

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