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How I started to appreciate my life instead of wanting it to end

How I started to appreciate my life instead of wanting it to end

“When I started counting my blessings, my whole life turned around.” ~Willie Nelson

Few things have the power to totally transform one’s life as gratitude. Gratitude can be the spring of happiness or the foundation of love. It is the foundation of genuine faith and humility. Without gratitude, bitterness, jealousy and regret can boil over within us all.

I would. As a teenager and young man, I experienced life without gratitude and the horrible pain that it brought.

My exterior was a happy, friendly, and gracious person. I was a funny person who could make anyone laugh. I was loyal to my friends throughout all of life. Under the surface, however, I felt an intense fire in my heart.

Although I received unending love and attention from my family, I felt inwardly bitter about my adoption. Three bitter questions recurred in my head for many years.

  • Why was I only a month old when my birth mother gave me up to adoption?
  • Why did I try so desperately hard to win acceptance from others when it was clear that I just didn’t fit in anywhere?
  • Why did I have the need to feel the discomfort and confusion of not being truly a part?

These questions began to dominate my thoughts and I started to feel a variety of unpleasant emotions. One of my worst feelings was the feeling that I saw myself as a victim to circumstances. Of course, as I would later realize, this couldn’t have been further from the truth. I was not a victim of circumstances, but a blessed recipient grace. But at the time I couldn’t see that.

My sense of resentment at my adoption eventually led me to alcoholism and other destructive behaviors.

My early adulthood was filled with endless parties and a hedonistic lifestyle. I had many bad relationships with women and was involved in too many drinking nights to count. It was also during these years that I got in trouble with the police.

I even considered suicide at one point during this difficult time in my own life. I was so concerned about how I would accomplish it, I planned meticulously. I would overdose on alcohol and pills. I bought both the booze and the pills to complete the act.

I’m certain I would have ended my life if it wasn’t for the last-second agonizing thoughts of inflicting such emotional tolls on my family. 

My refusal to work hard and address my adoption caused me to spiral down into adulthood. I lost my teaching job, struggled with alcohol abuse and moved about a lot each year in the hope that I would find some inner peace.

For the better part of my twenties and early thirties, my mind’s demons continued to get the best of me. This vicious cycle of discontent continued until a pivotal moment in my life. I had an amazing moment of healing on a trip to Maui (Hawaii) with my family. We were hiking in the sublime beauty of this mystical island.

On the third and fourth days of my trip, I was alone walking along a small trail that lead to the edge of an amazing cliff overlooking the turquoise ocean. Standing there, I was so overwhelmed by joy that I immediately tore all my clothes off and let out an exaggerated primal yell. I felt a wave of peace and calm wash over me for the first time since childhood.

When I think back to that moment, what I felt is gratitude. Pure gratitude for being alive made me feel grateful. It was pure gratitude that I had been a part in something so much greater than I could have imagined. While standing there in awe of the Earth’s glorious wonder, I also experienced overflowing feelings of gratitude for my adoption.

All of my adoption decisions suddenly made sense.

It was my destiny that I would be adopted into the family I chose. It was an incredible act of love and compassion for my birth mother to adopt me, knowing that it would open more doors for me in America. My adoptive mother had to endure terrible physical abuse and a lengthy legal battle to get me out.

It was like I was transported into another realm of consciousness. The boundary between the person who thought they were the knower or the subject that was being known was dissolved in that moment. There was no me in that moment. There was no birth mother. There wasn’t an adoptive father and mother. We all were just one expression of love.

It is important to note that without gratitude, no spiritual breakthrough would have been possible for me. This was what gave me that incredible glimpse of reality in that perfect moment. Since that moment, I have made gratitude my cornerstone in the inner work I do.

Before I go to sleep, every night I make it my goal to list at least two things for which I am grateful. The idea of starting a gratitude journal may sound cliché to some, but it has helped me navigate life with more gratitude. I feel more grateful for the blessings I have been given, such as good health, clean water, food, and air.

My own experiences with adoption have led me to believe that a gratitude journal has many benefits. It helps us see ourselves as more than victims of circumstances.

If we set aside gratitude for our daily lives, we can see the numerous opportunities for personal development that arise from our challenging life experiences.

I am open to hearing anyone complain about being a victim of any circumstance. When they are done telling their story, I listen attentively and offer my advice.

What are you thankful for? What lessons have you learned from your difficulties?

The relationship we have with suffering can be transformed profoundly by gratitude. Recognizing the gratitude we feel within ourselves allows us to see even the most difficult events in our lives as gristfor the mill.

You don’t have to travel far to cultivate gratitude. All of us have the ability to feel the same deep sense of gratitude right here, now.

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About Forrest Rivers

Forrest Rivers is an earth lover and seeker who loves hiking with his dog Abbie. He has appeared on more than 55 consciousness-related podcasts and radio shows. He is the author The Hippie Revival, and Collected Writings His forthcoming book, Humanity’s Spiritual Rebirth, It is expected to be published by 2024. Forrest can be reached via Facebook or his website (forrestrivers.com). You can also follow his YouTube channel, Mystic soul Revival with Forrest Rivers.

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