Mary J. Blige was shocked into sobriety following the sudden death of fellow R&B superstar Whitney Houston last year (Feb12), revealing she was "crushed" by the unexpected loss of her friend.
The Real Love hitmaker, who battled drug addiction during her youth, reveals the tragedy forced her to re-evaluate her lifestyle, prompting her to quit boozing and adopt a healthier diet in an effort to avoid a similar demise.
She tells Shape magazine, "Others may be able to drink and have a great time, but it doesn't work for me at this point. I haven't had a drink in a year and three months. I had quit for a long time but started again about five years ago. I'm off it completely once more, and now I feel stronger than ever.
"Whitney Houston's death really crushed me. I saw someone so incredibly talented just diminish, and I refuse to go out like that!"
Blige shows off her new bikini body on the cover of the magazine and credits her trainer, J.R. Allen, and a strict work-out plan for her toned physique.
As part of her exercise routine, Blige has also achieved her lifelong goal of learning how to swim.
She explains, "I never swam as a kid and that always bothered me. At first, it was very hard, but once I got in the water and figured out how to breathe, it was so liberating. Now it's helping me with every aspect of my life - personally and professionally. Conquering that fear was a huge boost to my confidence. I'm as proud of this accomplishment as I would be if I had graduated from college, which I never got to do."
And Blige is more than happy with the results of her hard work: "I had an 'aha!' moment recently after a swim. I was walking by a mirror and I saw my abs, and they were crazy toned, and my arms looked unbelievable - in a good way, I was thrilled and so proud of myself... When I'm fit, I can conquer the world. I love the way I look and feel right now and I am truly comfortable in my own skin."
Houston died in her hotel bathtub in February, 2012. Her passing was ruled an accidental drowning, combined with the effects of heart disease and cocaine use.
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