Pay Attention

Recovery’s Ancillary Benefits Affect My Day-to-Day Living

Sean Cardinalli
3 min readJul 20, 2020


Photo by Mark Daynes on Unsplash

June 25, 2012

A Buddhist teacher named Cheri Huber, whose work I revere, sent out a message today which read: “Be just the way you have always been, with this difference: do not believe any of it, and pay close attention to all of it.” The fact that I got that message today, for me, is nothing short of providential, because I woke today with a super negative outlook.

This morning I was being really hard on myself and it took me awhile to calm down and give myself a break. I am completely stressed out about my financial issues and their effect on my family. I feel like I’m not doing the things I want to do for them or me; that I’m not successful in the time and place I thought I would be; and I feel like I’m starting over, career-wise, and I’m almost 40 years old. It’s more than a little depressing and daunting.

In everything I’ve just expressed, I hear a lot of “no” and “can’t” and “should’ve”. The feelings are valid, and I’m grateful that I can feel them now that I’m sober. But that doesn’t mean the feelings are true. I have some spiritual training now so that I don’t stay in the kind of negative space I woke to for long. If I stay too long, I tend to teeter on the edge of acting out and then I’ll really feel like crap repressing the emotions I was just experiencing. In recovery, I’ve learned I can’t escape my emotional reality, much less my financial one, via scarcity thinking and acting out.

For me, Cheri Huber’s share means living in the present, being respectful of the past and also compassionate with myself about it, so as to not let what’s already happened derail my plans for the future. Paying “close attention” keeps me out of denial; “not believing” means not reliving the past; not preventing myself from growing further still on my spiritual path.

With Cheri’s message in mind, I can move to a more positive outlook; I can see that my list of qualities and blessings is longer than my defects and difficulties. Firstly, I’m sober; secondly, I have a ton of support inside and out of fellowship; thirdly, my most stressful experiences in sobriety are nothing compared to the personal hell of being in active addiction. There is much to be thankful for.

This program promises all sorts of things. The obvious things are sanity and serenity and freedom from addiction. But the promises of recovery have ancillary benefits, like how much better I can meet challenges — like career and financial ones — that come with day-to-day living. Recovery allows me to experience life’s difficulties with more grace and celebrate life’s joys with even more reverence.



Sean Cardinalli

coaching, podcasting, and blogging on sex / love addiction, intimacy, relationships, divorce, dating, and the creative process