“I don’t drink anymore,” the reality star, 27, tells PEOPLE at BravoCon. “I’m five months sober now. It’s been incredible.”
“I never realized how much alcohol was slowing me down and making me procrastinate in big life things that I could be pursuing now,” he continues. “My career is getting even bigger and my deejaying is really taking off so I’m taking it seriously. I’m going to take over!”
Though he’s proud of his accomplishments so far, Kennedy admitted that staying sober isn’t always easy, especially when it comes to his job as a deejay.
“I’m dealing with all the anxiety and pre-show jitters without drowning myself in vodka,” he says. “You’ll see this season what I do to actually get over alcohol, it was a process for sure. I take it day by day and keep it gangsta.”
Recounting his comments to Maloney-Schwartz in a December 2018 episode, Vanderpump said, “I cannot stand behind that. The way you’re talking to women — who the f— do you think you are, that you can stand there and you can call these beautiful, young women, ‘they’re sluts, they’re whores.’ You’ve got to start showing respect. You put me in a very, very difficult position. I cannot have you as one of the faces of my company with the way you disrespect women.”
At the time, Kennedy insisted that he’s a nice guy who “changes” when he drinks.
“There’s a darkness inside me that comes out. Seriously, I’m never touching another drop of alcohol again,” he vowed.
“Exactly. You need to be sober for the rest of your life. I’m telling you that,” Vanderpump, 59, said during their confrontation, making it clear that it was too late for him to change her mind.
During Vanderpump Rules‘ season seven reunion earlier this year, Kennedy’s fellow cast member Sandoval suggested that his friend’s angry outbursts were triggered by mixing alcohol with drugs.
“I think when I’ve seen with you, James, be at your absolute worst is when you’re mixing alcohol with other things,” he said. “I see you have a beer, be totally chill, totally fun, mix it with other things, and then you’re like —“
“What other things? I’m smoking weed, I drink vodka,” Kennedy replied, denying that he did any harder “uppers-type” drugs.
“That’s not my thing, so shut your mouth,” he yelled as Sandoval doubled down. (A rep for Bravo told PEOPLE at the time that Kennedy would not comment further on Sandoval’s claim.)
Later during the reunion, Kennedy explained that he didn’t see himself as an alcoholic, though he did drink as a crutch in social situations.
“I could go into social anxiety and stuff like that, but sometimes I feel like I need to be on. You know, my job is to deejay and I’m in a nightclub a lot, and people want to meet me a lot when I go to SUR and stuff like that,” he said. “But it gets hard for me sometimes, and I feel like after a whiskey or two, I feel on.”
Vanderpump Rules returns Jan. 7 at 9 p.m. ET on Bravo.
If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, please contact the SAMHSA substance abuse helpline at 1-800-662-HELP.