During the season 15 premiere of The Real Housewives of Orange County Wednesday night, the reality star delivered a powerful and vulnerable statement. Speaking straight to the cameras, Windham-Burke admitted, "I don't know if it's divine intervention. I don't know. But for the first time in my life I can say, 'My name is Braunwyn and I'm an alcoholic.'"
In an interview with ET's Lauren Zima this week, Windham-Burke said that she began filming season 15 approximately eight or nine months ago, so obviously a lot has changed in her life since then.
"By the time I said that in the confessional, it was OK. I had already said it to myself," she said. "When I quit drinking, it was Jan. 30, 2020, and I had my interview for the next season where we sit down with the producers to go over what's going on in your life on Jan. 31, the next day."
"I kind of tip-toed around, 'Oh, I'm getting healthy,' whatever, because I hadn't committed it. I just knew things were out of control. I knew my life had become unmanageable," she added. "Then I called Captain Sandy from Below Deck Mediterranean because I knew she'd been sober for 30 years. I got her advice and she said, 'You had no problem being drunk on camera. Why are you having such a hard time getting sober on camera?' And I had to admit the truth was because then I would be accountable and that was scary."
Windham-Burke revealed that once she had that conversation, she immediately called her producer and said, "Here's the truth, I'm an alcoholic."
"I said, I've struggled with this for many years, this is not my first time trying to get sober. I went to rehab 10 years ago, this is not new. This is just something I didn't tell you guys, this is something that I kept to myself thinking I could keep it under control," she recalled. "And he said, 'OK, do you want to film this?' I said, 'I do, and I want to do it right. I want to do it honestly, and I don't want to sugarcoat it.' He's like, 'OK, we're in.'"
"So by the time I said that in front of all of you, I had already started going to support meetings, I'd already started taking the steps that I needed," she continued. "You see a crazy scene on camera where I throw a glass and all that. That was my rock bottom, that was 30 days sober. I hadn't gone to get any help yet, I thought I could do it on my own, and you see that day the progression. I tried to kick the cameras out of the house, I really tried, and they followed me that whole day. They are integral in me getting to my first self-help meeting and me getting sober and staying sober."
As for why Windham-Burke didn't ask for help at the start of her sobriety journey, she admitted to ET that she "really wanted" to do it on her own.
"I was nervous to go to a self-help meeting. I was nervous I'd be recognized, I had shame around it, I had a hard time walking through those doors," she confessed. "That day in retrospect, [when I threw the glass], I should've gone. I should not have gone, in the state I was, to a party where everyone was tequila-tasting."
"Looking back I know that. I had an altercation with a cast member [Gina Kirschenheiter] at the time, because here I am trying not to drink and they say, 'Go to the bar, go have another drink, go have another f**king drink, that's what you always do,'" Windham-Burke recalled, telling ET that Kirschenheiter wasn't aware that she was trying to get sober at the time. "But that sent me over the edge. When I'd been trying so hard to stay sober and keep it together. Those words. That's when I threw the drink and said, 'F you.'"
Windham-Burke told ET that as of Oct. 12, she has been "256 days sober."
"Even though I feel like we all took a pause in 2020, for some reason, my life seems to be on fast forward, and the decisions I made eight, nine months ago obviously had a lot to do with where I'm at now," she said. "I'm just here for it. The year of 'yes.'"
"One day at a time, 256 one days at a time. I have a lot of gratitude," she continued. "I have a lot of amazing people in my life that have supported me and I'm so thankful that I was finally able to realize that I can't drink anymore. I've tried every way to drink and none of them work and so having that weight lifted off me, that it's not a choice anymore ... it's just, like I said, one day at a time because I don't want to get ahead of myself. But for today, I don't want to drink and I feel so good. I feel great."
The Real Housewives of Orange County airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on Bravo. Hear more in the video below.