January can provide the perfect excuse to reintroduce healthy choices back into our daily life after months of holiday indulging. For some, this may include cutting out alcohol.

For others, the decision to stop drinking entirely spans well beyond the Dry January initiative.

Reasons for quitting alcohol can include reaching fitness and weight loss goals to simply being a way to improve overall health. Whatever the reason, each person’s journey in cutting out alcohol is unique.

We spoke with Austin Cooper about his reasons for abstaining from alcohol as well as his tips for going alcohol-free.

Austin’s story is also part of a larger collaboration between Healthline and the American Liver Foundation. For more information and stories about America’s relationship with alcohol, click here.

Health and wellness touch each of us differently. This is one person’s story.

How would you describe your relationship with alcohol in the past?

Alcohol was my medication for past traumas, broken hearts, guilt, and shame. I started using it because it made me feel confident for once.

Sadly, it became my best friend, [but I eventually realized that] it was stabbing me in the back the entire time. I went from only drinking on the weekends to drinking almost every day. I fell deep into addiction in what seemed like the snap of a finger.

How would you describe it now? What were the driving forces of that change?

I see alcohol as being a roadblock. Since getting sober, I have spent the past 5 1/2 years moving my life forward and I don’t plan on letting anything get in my way, especially alcohol. One of the driving forces of change for me was inspiration.

An old friend of mine who was addicted to drugs created a post on Facebook describing the fact that he would be going to rehab. I thought in my mind that he had just done the most vulnerable things I had ever seen anyone do. I was proud of him, and I had thought in my mind how nice it would be to become proud of myself, too.

Months later, I witnessed him post about how amazing his life had become. I thought, If he can go from rock bottom to the top because of recovery, I wonder where I could go if I chose the same path.

That instance sparked something within me and was vital when my family held an intervention. My family had put together a well-thought-out plan in order to save my life. They wrote me heartfelt letters and described who I used to be before alcohol became prevalent in my life and who I had become due to my addictions.

In that moment I decided to do whatever I had to do in order to turn my life around. After 22 days of rehab, it was time to rebuild my life.

What are your tips for being at a social activity where alcohol (or the pressure to drink) is prevalent?

I focus on what the sole purpose of the event is supposed to be and soak in that moment. I also use the pride I have in my health to stay above the influence.

What advice do you have for someone who wants to either reduce their alcohol intake or quit drinking altogether?

Set goals and decide in that moment to do whatever it takes to achieve them. If alcohol or anything else will get in your way of accomplishing your goals, remove those obstacles from your life and focus on something productive that can move you forward.

As far as we know, we only live once, so we might as well give it our all while we have the chance.

Austin Cooper has been in recovery since April 10, 2013. He’s the founder of Sober Evolution, which is geared toward smashing the stigmas regarding addiction and recovery. Since deciding to turn his life around, Cooper has been able to give back just by being a good example. He’s excited to see the next person who decides to do the same.