“Life is not a matter of holding good cards, but of playing a poor hand well.” ~Robert Louis Stevenson

I see loss every day in my work with families. Loss of loved ones, either through active addiction or death. Loss of self and the will to do anything about it.

I see how people cope and what choices they make for themselves. Some choose to let their circumstances shatter them, while others choose to let their circumstances transform them.

Same circumstances, but different choices.

I have a friend who lost her daughter to a fentanyl overdose. After her death, she started a clothing boutique in her daughter’s memory called Gypsy Soul, which represents her daughter’s essence. She chose to heal through her boutique in memory of her daughter.

I have another friend who lost a son to a heroin overdose. After his death, she started a custom jewelry making business. She creates and sells her beautiful jewelry online. She chose to heal through her creativity in memory of her son.

I know a couple of mothers who have written books about their journeys as mothers of addicted sons, whose sons finally chose recovery after years of active addiction. Both write and speak about their experience and offer hope in recovery for all of us. They chose to heal through helping others in honor of their sons’ recovery.

My son’s girlfriend chose sobriety, after years of addiction, as a result of his death. She chose the transformative path and took the necessary steps to heal herself. She’s been in recovery for eight years, ever since his accidental overdose. She is married, lives a very full life in owning her business, and stays in service to others in her 12-step recovery work. She chose to heal by staying plugged into the recovery community and not holding back in her life choices.

Everyone comes into the world with a hand of cards not of their choosing – it’s the hand they were dealt. Some might disagree with that statement who believe in karmic paths, but aside from karma, we have innate intelligence that was hardwired upon our birth. We didn’t choose the family we were born into or the circumstances of our childhood were not designed by us. We didn’t cause someone’s addiction, can’t cure it, or control it.  We can choose to support and love them AND take care of ourselves, both.

We all have a wild card to play if we choose it.  A wild card can make all of the difference in the world.  Life has continuous forks in the road and it is important to make the right choices.

How do we make the right choices for ourselves? How do we play that wild card?

Here are four things I’ve learned from those who have played that wild card for themselves, despite their difficult circumstances.

  1.  Acceptance gives us choices.

Sometimes we are called upon to accept unpleasant realities. We may want to avoid these deep disappointments but to find peace is to be willing to accept things we cannot change. Acceptance involves sitting still and feeling the feelings before taking any type of action. With acceptance, we begin to see our options and choices and then slowly take the action meant to bring about positive change and meaning to our lives.

  1.  Being intentional with choice.

What we choose, with each action and thought, is an intention. If we are not conscious of each part of ourselves, good and bad, we will want our life to move in one direction and find that it is moving in another. We will want to release a painful pattern from our life, only to see it reappear again. We have to choose between opposing parts of ourselves and choose the one that follows responsible choice and self-love.

  1.  Simplifying choices.

Key choices like what principles to live by, what relationships we value, what we already know how to do, what we know to be true, and use of our strengths are the key categories that determine positive decisions. Research shows too many choices make it harder to choose. It we don’t simplify; our thought process becomes paralyzed, and we essentially make no choice. Fewer choices lead to better results.

  1.  It’s never too late to make good choices.

Where we are in life is temporary. How and when to play that wild card is totally up to us. The biggest step to changing the world around us is to change the world within us. We can learn from previous unhealthy choices – they deepen us, but don’t define us. Let them fuel better present day choices.

The wild card is about making life-affirming choices for ourselves, no matter the difficulty of our circumstances. We will gain more courage and confidence in making positive choices that lead to self-care and self-love, which we all deserve. It’s a journey through our defenses, looking honestly and openly into what we feel and really want for ourselves.

The contradiction of choice is that it is both holding on and letting go. We hold onto an old way of being, because the self still resides comfortably there, and when we are ready, we choose to let go to a new way of being, so that the self can experience the blessings of change and transformation. The cards we hold can change dramatically when we play the wild card of choice.

Mary Huff Cucarola – 10/1/21

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