Road To Recovery: How 3 Country Musicians Achieved Sober Lives


Alcohol and country music go together like peanut butter and jelly. You often see them together and blend seamlessly. Yet despite the rich history of tears in beers and shots of whiskey in country lyrics, not all country music artists live by the bottle. In fact, some live life completely sober. Here are the stories of three such men: Tim McGraw, Keith Urban, and Brantley Gilbert.

Tim McGraw

country music, artists, sober, Tim McGraw, Keith Urban, Brantley Gilbert
Tim McGraw (photo from Grammy)

Now a beacon of health and fitness, Tim McGraw wasn’t always the ironman he is now. In fact, he wasn’t even close.

Prior to 2008, Tim McGraw drank. Heavily. And he shared that it was because he used alcohol to calm his nerves before shows. It’s interesting to think about because he seems completely calm and collected on-stage. But it was just a facade. 

“It was exactly my process,” McGraw told People. “Basically, I am an unsure, self-conscious, shy person. That is how I started — even when I was in college, before I would get on stage, I would start drinking. I would start drinking to stop shaking.”

But the problem was that it wouldn’t stop there. He would start drinking to calm his nerves but then have many more drinks. Certainly more than was needed to kill the anxiety. “It was a pattern for me, for sure,” he shared.

“People Were Worried”

country music, artists, sober, Tim McGraw, Keith Urban, Brantley Gilbert
Tim McGraw (photo from Country Rebel)

It got out of hand enough that both McGraw‘s friends and family began to worry about him. As he also shared with People, “People said things,” he admitted. “People were worried about me … It wasn’t something that I didn’t know as well. But ultimately, it is really about how I want to be around for my kids. I want to be around to see how they grow up, I want to see what their lives become. I want to see what their kids look like.”

He also recalled: “I felt like I had to change it. I felt like I had to change my life. And it wasn’t like I was out doing crazy things, it was just that I was drinking too much. You know, some people might look at it and say — hey, I drank twice as much as that. But for me, it adversely affected my life and it was time to change it.” That was in 2008.

Replacing Alcohol With Workouts

country music, artists, sober, Tim McGraw, Keith Urban, Brantley Gilbert
Tim McGraw (photo from Men’s Journal)

And change he did. For the past 10 years, Tim McGraw hasn’t had a drop of liquor. And he replaced alcohol with working out– a healthier way to manage the anxiety and help burn off the nervousness.  “That’s where my workout program came into play,” he said. “It took the place of alcohol and it is really important.”

In fact, he often now works out for two hours at a time- twice a day. That can mean up to four hours of intense, grueling workouts. But it works for him. Not only is he sober but he is incredibly fit (he lost 40 pounds as a result of sober living and exercise). He is also able to calm those pre-show jitters.

The ritual now is to run,” he said. “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. It is literally timed so I run straight into the dressing room, get ready and hit the stage.”

“By the end of it, you are done,” he added. “You are exhausted. We work out in the morning, have a whole day, then we run and do the show. Our show is pretty high energy. Now at the end of the show, I have worn myself out.”

And thanks to that exhaustion, he doesn’t go out drinking after the show either. 

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