The Real Housewives of New York City star was back on stage Friday night, performing her sold-out smash #CountessAndFriends Cabaret show — this time in Atlantic City, New Jersey, at The Borgata‘s 1,000-seat Music Box Theater. And while she remained light-hearted in the show about her battle , she told PEOPLE backstage afterwards that she views her drinking problem as no laughing matter and isn’t worried about relapsing again.
“I’m in a really good place,” said de Lesseps, who said she is 40 days sober. “I don’t feel like drinking. I’m committed to my sobriety. I want it more than anything.”
“I have temptations and I go, ‘Wait, that’s the old Luann.’ Because you’re so trained… it’s like second-hand. But I feel like I’m in the driver’s seat now,” she added. “I feel free of the shackles of alcohol. Not to say it’s not a struggle, but for the moment, I don’t feel like drinking at all. It’s this new freedom and I love my freedom.”
De Lesseps first checked into rehab in December 2017 after she was arrested on Christmas Eve in Palm Beach, Florida, and charged with disorderly intoxication, battery on an officer, resisting arrest with violence and threatening a public servant. (She recently struck a plea deal in the case and will avoid jail time.)
Afterwards, de Lesseps came out feeling stronger and was committed to not drinking. But she’s said a lawsuit filed against her over an $8 million house sale from her first husband Alexandre de Lesseps and their children Victoria and Noel contributed to a relapse in July. She returned to rehab and checked out after staying at the facility for a little under three weeks.
So what’s different now? “I feel like I’ve had a turning point,” said de Lesseps. “I want to continue the success of my cabaret. This means everything to me. I’m not going to let drinking get in the way. It’s too menial. I don’t want to mess it up.”
“It’s crazy, but a very dear friend of mine said to me, ‘You know, you’re not pretty when you drink. Your face changes,’ ” she recalled. “And not that I’m so vain, but it was like a switch that went off.”
Watching RHONY back, and some of the drunken behavior from her castmates, has also opened her eyes.
“When I watch the show and I watch what happened in Colombia, it turns me off to drinking completely,” she said. “The thought of drinking kind of repulses me at the moment.”
She said she doesn’t miss it either. “I’ve totally turned on to mocktinis,” she said. “And I don’t wake up in the morning and go, ‘Damn, I wish I have a hangover.’ “
PEOPLE exclusively broke the news that de Lesseps had checked herself into an alcohol treatment facility for the second time on July 16.
“This weekend, Luann was surrounded by her girlfriends and decided — with their support — that in light of recent circumstances, it is the healthiest choice for her not to attend Tuesday’s reunion taping so that she can continue in her healing process,” costar Bethenny Frankel, who was authorized by de Lesseps to speak on her behalf, exclusively told PEOPLE at the time. “It’s a brave and honest decision by her, and everyone is rallying around her and wants the best for her.”
Having Frankel’s support was important to de Lesseps.
“It meant a lot to me,” she told PEOPLE. “I had Charlie’s Angels swoop in! I had one friend who took care of my financial situation with the legal thing. I had one who was really looking into what rehab I was going to go to. And then Bethenny, who really took care of the television side and helped orchestrate that.”
“She really was instrumental in helping me get sober,” de Lesseps added of Frankel. “She just wiped it off my plate. She was like, ‘You have to go to rehab.’ I’m so grateful.”
The Real Housewives of New York City airs Wednesdays (at 8 p.m. ET) on Bravo.