James Kennedy has not shied away from discussing his successes — and his failures — on the journey to staying sober.
Bravo viewers were introduced to Kennedy when he joined Vanderpump Rules in 2015. After starting out as a busser at Lisa Vanderpump’s restaurant SUR, Kennedy quickly got wrapped up in plenty of drama on screen.
Kennedy was often on the outs with his costars — from a tumultuous relationship with Kristen Doute to his feud with Jax Taylor and questionable comments about numerous costars — and his relationship with alcohol didn’t help. After Vanderpump fired Kennedy numerous times, he made an effort to address his substance abuse issues.
In July 2020, Kennedy announced that he celebrated one year of sobriety. The professional DJ later admitted that he was “California sober” because marijuana helped him to no longer use alcohol.
“It helped me quit the alcohol for good, you know what I mean? I will quit weed also when the time comes,” he said on Watch What Happens Live With Andy Cohen in October 2021. “I don’t feel like I should quit right now, you know? There’s no point.”
Kennedy added: “It doesn’t harm me. It doesn’t, like, affect my life in a negative way. So, why quit?”
After his high-profile split from Rachel “Raquel” Leviss, Kennedy confirmed he started drinking again, saying on a February 2023 episode of Vanderpump Rules, “I learned a lot from not drinking those two years.”
Kennedy considered cutting out alcohol after meeting now-girlfriend Ally Lewber. Before season 11 of Vanderpump Rules started airing in January 2024, Lewber said in an interview with Bravo that Kennedy “changed the most” over the years.
“James, he’s in therapy, he’s sober, I’m really proud of him,” she gushed that same month.
Keep reading to see Kennedy’s candid quotes about sobriety:
Kennedy exclusively told Us Weekly about the benefits of getting sober, sharing in August 2019, “I am 10 weeks [sober] this Friday. It’s been really good. Everything’s beautiful. I’ve been focusing on my sobriety and it’s been going really well. … [My] music has been just so good lately. I haven’t been procrastinating on s—t.”
Making a Change
During an appearance on WWHL in March 2020, Kennedy credited Alcoholics Anonymous meetings for helping him.
“Because of all the drinking I was doing and stuff, I was really hiding away from my true emotions and just blaming whatever I wanted to get out the easy way,” he explained. ”I’m going onto nine months sober. I haven’t had a drink in nearly nine months, and I just feel completely different.”
Kennedy continued: “I’ve really taken hold of my life and try to change it for the better and change our relationship for the better. I know I should be doing this for me, but I’m also doing it for my relationship with Raquel.”
Celebrating a Milestone
“Hey everyone just wanted to let you all know I’ve made it to my one year sober today. Letting go of drinking was the best decision I ever made and I’m going strong. I don’t miss the booze …… I don’t miss the feeling …. I’m so grateful for everything now and life has become more beautiful in many ways,” Kennedy captioned an Instagram post in July 2020. “Thank you to my rock @raquelleviss for getting me here I couldn’t of done this without you my love. and thank you all for the support this past year.”
Proud of the Steps He Took
Ahead of his two-year anniversary, Kennedy reflected on the lessons he learned while maintaining his sobriety.
“It’s gratitude. It’s the feeling of being so thankful for my sobriety. I wake up every day thanking God that I’ve got it,” he told E! News in May 2021. “My life has just gotten so much better from quitting drinking. I’m never hungover, I’m able to focus on my music so much more. My relationships and friendships are excelling. When I see these amazing things happening right before my eyes, why would I want to go back?”
Kennedy admitted he had to deal with a feeling of “missing out,” adding, “I got over that, in the first six months I was still struggling with the whole, ‘Well, everyone else is getting to go out and have fun but I don’t.’ When I got over that hump and I realized I’m actually able to have just as much fun, if not more, than everyone else drinking.”
He concluded: “It was like a lightbulb went off in my head and it’s just an amazing thing. Like I walk into a room now with people drinking everywhere and I’m just so f—king happy I don’t, you know? I’m just so thankful and I feel so good about it. I can still be the life of the party, I can still be my charismatic self and I still end up chatting even more than most people do to drink, they drink just to get more chatty. But I’ve never needed that and I never really realized that I didn’t need alcohol until I quit it. So being able to maintain the sobriety has thankfully been the easiest part of it.”
Trying California Sobriety
According to Kennedy, being “California sober” meant he still smoked marijuana daily and used edibles
“It’s wild and it’s a blessing. I thank God every day for my sobriety, honestly,” he said on WWHL in October 2021. “Cutting out alcohol was the best decision I’ve ever made, thanks to [Raquel]. … It’s just f—king amazing. I wake up every morning never hungover, just ready for life. And I know that sounds cliché, but it’s honestly so good.”
Reflecting on His Decision
In December 2021, Kennedy and Leviss announced their split after five years of dating. Kennedy discussed how his relationship with Leviss influenced his life while filming the season 9 reunion, which aired one month later.
“This is not a product of me f–king up my life, Tom. This is a product of the truth. The second she said, ‘We are not soulmates.’ For me, that was a f–king enlightenment. I realized that we loved each other but we are not in love with each other anymore. She has made her decision. Her parents have always hated me. It has never been easy,” he told Tom Sandoval. “Even becoming the man that quit drinking and changed his whole f–king lifestyle for this relationship [wasn’t enough]. It wasn’t enough. I still have these anger issues, and I am never doing this again.”
Walking His Choice Back
“After two and a half years of not a single drop, I decided to drink again, have a couple drinks. After Raquel left, I thought I was getting married, I was engaged, do you know what I mean? After all I did to better myself, it still clearly wasn’t enough,” Kennedy during the season 10 premiere of Vanderpump Rules, which aired in January 2023. “And quite frankly, it was a new f–king year. It was 2022, you know, what am I doing? I’m f–king James Kennedy. Like, let me live.”
In a separate conversation with Leviss, Kennedy said he got sober because of her, adding, “If I am gonna quit again, it will be for me next time and not an ultimatum in a relationship.”