Tim McGraw got sober in 2008, and he credits wife Faith Hill for helping him commit to that decision. In a new piece for Esquire, the country star reflected on a turning point in his battle with alcoholism, explaining that he knew he couldn’t move forward on his own.
“I remember a moment when I was getting out of bed and going to the liquor cabinet and taking a big shot at 8:00 in the morning and thinking, I have to wake the kids up,” he said. McGraw and Hill share three daughters, Gracie, Maggie, and Audrey, now 24, 23 and 19, respectively, and McGraw knew that his wife was the person whose help he needed. “I went straight to my wife and said, ‘This is where I’m at,'” he recalled. “I was scared. She just grabbed me and hugged me and changed my life.”
In 2014, McGraw discussed his decision to get sober with Men’s Health. “When your wife tells you it’s gone too far, that’s a big wake-up call,” he said. “That, and realizing you’re gonna lose everything you have. Not monetarily, not career-wise, but family-wise.” The Louisiana native added of his kids, “It got to the point where my kids were getting older, and it was way past the point that they noticed it. And I noticed that they noticed. That’s enough to straighten you out.”
“I drank too much,” he said. “I partied too much. And did other things too much. Chemically,” says McGraw. “No needles or that kind of stuff, but use your imagination.”
One of McGraw’s heroes is Keith Whitley, who died of alcohol poisoning in 1989, and McGraw revealed that he was seeing similarities between himself and the late country singer. “Keith Whitley taught me how demons can overtake you if you let ’em. And I was headed down that path. You feel like you’re supposed to be ‘on’ all the time. Then you drink and get onstage, and all of a sudden you feel confident and powerful.”
“It becomes a habit,” he continued. “Up until seven years ago, there were not a lot of shows that I didn’t have something in my system.” McGraw has since replaced drinking with exercise, and instead of a pre-show drink, he now heads out on a run. “Me and a few of the guys in the band — I do my meet and greet and right after the meet and greet — we take off and run for 4 or 5 miles,” he told PEOPLE. “It is literally timed so I run straight into the dressing room, get ready and hit the stage.”