It’s so easy when we’re young. We have the whole world in front of us and nothing can hurt us. But, as the years move forward, the lessons come. Some we heed. Some we ignore. It takes some time before we realize that really…life is all about choices. Is there a master plan? Maybe. Maybe not. Why am I pondering on these things? It’s simple–life and death.

In the last year, too many people in my life have left this earth. Some unfairly–cancer, diabetes, accidents. Some by their own hands, whether intentional or not. And some, through a combination of both. My brother who succumbed to cancer chose not to seek medical help until the cancer had progressed so far, the doctors couldn’t stop it. A cousin’s young daughter (27) lost her battle with juvenile diabetes. And yet another, a friend since childhood lost her life after a quiet battle with drugs and alcohol. Choices and fate.

Over 20 years ago, I made a decision that alcohol was a destructive force in my life. I made the choice to walk away from it and my life changed. I thought at the time it would be horrible and how could I enjoy parties or nights out on the town? Funny, it really didn’t take long at all before I realized I didn’t miss it one little bit. Instead, life took on a focus that I could embrace. I got out of an unhealthy marriage and ultimately, entered into another one far healthier and much, much happier. I finished my education and went on to graduate school. I changed jobs and steadily moved up. I published seven novels with number eight due for release in a few months. I began to participate in healthy activities such as running and cycling. In 2010, I began to participate in triathlons. I can say with confidence, one choice opened the door to it all. It was a choice that was right for me.

Last night I sat mulling over the revelation that yet another childhood friend had succumbed to the lure of alcohol and drugs. She wasn’t the first and probably won’t be the last. Her death from these causes was, however, a shock. I never would have guessed. Then again, substance abuse can be a quiet and deadly path. A lonely path. I wish I could have helped. I wish I could have told her that there is another way. But I couldn’t and now it’s too late.