"I drank a lot from my point of view and I needed to stop," McGraw, 45, tells PEOPLE in its new issue, out this Friday. "I felt quitting was something I needed to do. I didn't feel I had any moral high ground with my kids in the long run."
Five years ago, the country superstar replaced throwing back whiskey with weight-training and an intense workout regimen – and when he showed up for PEOPLE's cover shoot in Las Vegas, he played basketball with his band shirtless (and we have the exclusive pics to prove it).
"Working out is a great way to go out on stage," McGraw, whose new album Two Lanes of Freedom is out on Feb. 5 with an ambitious 30-city tour following this spring, says. "When I hit the stage, my adrenaline is going and I'm ready."
Aside from looking good, McGraw got healthier first and foremost to be there for his three daughters Gracie Katherine, 15, Maggie Elizabeth, 14, and Audrey Caroline, 11. "I'm in a good place right now," says McGraw. "I really feel like this new album is not a culmination of the things I've done, it's a new beginning of the things I am going to do. I want to enjoy my career and having my family. I have a busy life, but it is a fulfilling life."
For more on McGraw, his 16-year marriage to Faith Hill, his workout schedule and to see his eight-pack abs, pick up this week's PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday