That’ll Do Pig, That’ll Do

It’s the backloading that kills ya.

“Front loading”.

That’s a term I never heard of until we had children.  What that means is that you give the child as much information up front so that transitions are easier on them when it comes time to change something.  Like when leaving the park. Or when dropping them off at preschool.  Or when it’s almost time to turn the TV off.  Our oldest son needed a lot of front loading when he was younger – still needs some these days.  Change wasn’t kind to him, and it was difficult for him to move on to the next phase – physically, emotionally or in his environment.  Front loading was a way of giving him a long fair warning of what was going to happen and when it was going to happen.  Front loading is a way of gently nudging towards a new way.

“Front loading” also means having many pre-drinks before going to a bar or party, by the way.  I was pretty good at that.  It helped me in my transition from an empty shell of a human being to someone who momentarily felt he had filling in that shell.  When it came to social events, I always asked my wife who was going, and how many people were going to be there, especially if they were coming over.  I had no capacity to be spontaneous.   I needed to adjust.  I had to fiddle with the dials a bit.  I needed to continually be fed information so that I could be as comfortable in my own skin as possible.  Which was usually not at all.

Ok, try to flip the 'mock sincerity' matrix and route power to the 'socially acceptable' algorithm
Ok, try to flip open the ‘mock sincerity’ matrix and route power to the ‘socially awkward’ algorithm

Now, with regards to my son,  I would find myself worrying when I saw other kids, usually younger than him, already potty trained or reciting pi or whatever it was that my son wasn’t doing yet.  It’s an unspoken thing many parents engage in (at least I do) about comparing their children to others.  So when I saw my son taking forever to get out of diapers, it had me thinking about all the other delayed landmarks in his young life.  Would he always be behind?  Would he be missing out on things?  Is he somehow not smart enough, or willing enough to do the things that show progress in others?  How would he be seen by others?

Lots of questions.  Too bad those questions had nothing to do with him.  I was projecting, of course.  He’ s a kid.  He’s doing fine.  It’s I who couldn’t handle him not being in the place I thought he should be.  Me putting my weighty, old stuff on a 35 lb frame. Me trying adjust those dials again, but by remote control.   Me trying to play God.  And what it comes down to is me trying to measure my progress on a measuring stick that is warped.  And it’s warped because I created it.  How could it not be refracted and out of proportion? An alcoholic created it.

So what it comes down to is this – I cannot compare where I am in my recovery to anyone else.  I cannot compare where I am in my timeline to anyone else.  I cannot compare where my heart and mind lie in this moment to anyone else.  And yet I love to do so at times.  Do my detriment, of course.  You see, like my son, I don’t transition easily.  That is, I stay where I need to stay until I am gently pushed or guided to the next phase or step of my development.  I can’t be forced, coerced, pep talked, enticed or sweet talked into getting into the place I need to be until I get to the place I need to be, regardless of how badly I want to be there.  Just like I couldn’t force my son to have an interest in using the washroom or to write his name properly or to balance on a rail at the playground – he had to come to those things in his own space, through the natural progression of his own oneness and uniqueness.  He needed the room to make errors, to strike a balance and finally get to that unmarked, but definite line where he moved into a new phase.  And sometimes he needed a tiny push in the right direction in doing so.

And so it is with me.


When I started my recovery, there was a sense that I was going to be this brand new person.  Unrecognizable.  Like the Phantom of the Opera with a mask-ectomy and botox in the forehead for good measure.  I wanted to be like the werewolf losing his coat and scorn and returning to human form.  But there was a snag in all of this.  It’s that thing about being human and all.  Sigh.  I don’t get to always choose what changes in me.  And in a cruel twist of fate, I also am the last to see any changes.  Rude, I tell you.  So when I saw others in my meetings working the room, getting the handshakes and hugs, getting the phone numbers, getting invited for coffee, and me not, I had to stop and take my internal emotional temperature.  I pulled out the warped measuring stick (the stick is like a Magic 8 ball, but nowhere near as accurate).  And this is what the stick told me:  you’re behind, Paul.  You’re behind the pack.  You’re not par for course.  You’re not good enough as those guys.  Work harder or disappear.

So I redoubled my efforts to no or very little progress.  When I saw that others were smiling a lot more than I was, or were more connected to others, or didn’t seem to need as many meetings as I did, I pulled out the measuring stick.  Yup – stuck at “dumbass”.  No matter how much I shook that stick or remeasured, it came up to that same result.  No matter how much my sponsor or other well intentioned men front loaded me with how it was going to be, that things would go at it’s own pace, I still had difficulty in transitioning. I refused to believe that I could be “last” in anything.  I was last in lots of things in life, and I didn’t want to be last in recovery.  How sick in my thinking, even in recovery.  And I still find myself doing that at times.

Guess which lane I want to be in? Guess which lane I have been given?

I have to also remember that this isn’t a race.  The only one I have to compare myself to is myself.  A simple, but oh so difficult concept for this alcoholic to follow.  Remember, we alcoholic like to muddle and entangle things.  That is why AA works so well for people like me – it’s a simple program for complicated people.  So where does this leave me?  I have to see that where I am at, is where I am at and where I am meant to be.  Simple.  OK.  But I want to be there.  (Slow down, Mario Andretti…remember what we said?  Not a race). So I stay where I am and like my son, I find I need the space to make mistakes, to learn what I need to learn, then ascend and grow into a new phase where I repeat this cycle.  These days, it seems that I am in a space where unfinished business looms and where I need to take certain actions.  I seem to be in a place where pulling back hurts me more than pushing out.  But the big question is how do I know I am ready to move on? I know from past experience that I am on the verge of a spiritual breakthrough when all my old habits and old thoughts come back with a vengeance.  When there is resistance.

And that’s been going on lately.

I’ve been here before, though. I doubt myself, I start to wonder what the hell is wrong with me, I want to isolate, and then finally I struggle and push and stretch out, strain and cry out, and then…peace.     Like grey drapes that have been pulled aside to let light in, I am in a new phase.  I have transitioned.  I am where I now need to be…once again.  I’ve been front loaded and catapulted into a new and wonderful phase where I can be of service to others, not an obstacle to myself.  I am not as worried about how I am seen by others.  I am not missing out on things – I am seeing what I am required to see.  It’s like there is a point where the work is done, where it hits the mark it needs to hit, where it’s finally time for the Divine telling me “that’ll do pig, that’ll do”.  I’m given a nudge.

And I feel the nudge come from inside.  And it comes from Him.  And it’s never wrong.  Just enough.  I’m there.


16 Comments Add yours

  1. jrstover says:

    Absolutely love what you’ve written here. Gleaned some really cool insights. Thanks for your thoughts. He who began a good work in you will complete it. Trust that.

    1. Thank you very much for the kind words…very much appreciated. I will trust in that. Thanks for being here 🙂


  2. whinelessinwashington says:

    I love this, Paul. I think you’re right, I think we all think and compare and question and doubt ourselves ALL the time. (heck yes, our kids, too – everyone compares! it’s not judgemental, I think, I believe it’s just trying to understand order and place in the world) And if you don’t have expectations as to who you are trying to be; not the old self, nor the ‘new’ self – but just the ‘self’ and leave it there. I think you have to be kind to yourself when old thoughts and actions come back. Some might be ok. Look at them, take a good look, and ask yourself; are they ok to come back? Maybe, maybe not. You’re doing the right thing, the right thoughts, and are such a great writer as to how you put it on the virtual page. Keep writing, keep questioning – that’s the best way!! Great post, as usual. all the best, Ellen

    1. Wow Ellen – loved your comments, especially about disregarding old and new self and just be content with self. You have me thinking there…wow. Never saw it that way.


      Rock on 🙂


      1. whinelessinwashington says:

        That’s right, rock on duuuuude! (I laugh everything I call my son – and daughter – that. It’s such a habit. I feel like such a child of the 80s. Which I am.)
        xo Ellen

  3. Lisa Neumann says:

    I did a workshop once called “I’m Enough” … (It was a barely recognizable title for the 6 week class.) It was even a challenge for me to put it together because I felt (still) like I wasn’t enough at that time in my recovery. (Even now sometimes… uggh.)This theme is so common and from my perspective the root of disease. We just can’t/won’t/don’t see the beauty of what we really are within. Paul, my friend, you are a light in my life, Just like you sign your name. Your kids are so fortunate to have you. xox Me

    1. Thank you Lisa – much too kind. I do agree about the not feeling enough at times. I think I overthink things (gah! another aspect of the disease) so I have to trust in the process and not give it too much weight – but just enough to keep afloat and not sink below the line. You have shown me the light many, many times Lisa – and this is yet another one of those times.


  4. destamae says:

    Ahhh yes!! Love this!!! I too needed a lot of ‘front loading’ as a child-and then again as an addict…had to ‘prepare’ myself appropriately based on where we were going and who and for how long I was going to have to put up being there! My son now especially requires it as well-big time. Having sensory processing disorder-he does NOT handle change or transitions well at all. I love the parallels you draw in here. So insightful. Thank you for such a raw, honest and thought provoking post!! Great writing as always!!

    1. thanks Desta – we can agree about “preparing” ourselves on all levels before even getting out of bed, let alone the house! I hope the little guy is getting better at the transitions. Some days the boys just sink down and don’t want to move…dig their heels in. Reminds me of me at times…ha ha.

      Thanks for the kind words 🙂


  5. Al K Hall says:

    This came up tonight in the speaker’s share. He said that he’d understood on a deep level that he was exactly who he was supposed to be, which reminded me of a motif i’d heard in a Dax Shepherd/Kristen Bell film where Dax kept telling Kristen not to worry, that she was exactly where she was supposed to be at that precise moment and she was not supposed to be anywhere else.

    i’m trying to be the leaf on the river, letting the current take me where i’m supposed to go, and enjoying the ride as much as i can. And posts like this one help enormously, brother!

    1. Hey Al – deep stuff there – love it. Especially the analogy of the leaf on the current. I think sometimes I wonder why the current isn’t going faster, or why it’s not going left enough, etc. instead of just being with it. Something for me to gain more clarity on. And what you said will help me with that.

      Thanks again for the awesome comments.


  6. Erika says:

    Oh my, Paul. how do you do it? Post after post after post! I could not be more grateful for following your blog, it is a blessing to read you. Just when I feel I am the only (crazy) one, I get to read this and feel like I am not alone.

    Thanks for blogging!!! 😀

    1. Oh Erika…always so nice to see you here 🙂 Thanks for what you said – it’s reciprocal – love reading your posts as well. You’ve taught me to keep the passion alive. Thank YOU for blogging !

      Love and light,

      1. Erika says:

        Thank YOU, always and forever 🙂

  7. byebyebeer says:

    I suspect a lot of this is cyclical and completely normal and we just never noticed it or much of anything when we were drinking. The whole progress not perfection phrase really helps me these days. There is never peace in comparing myself with others…like, ever.

    I’m so glad you explained the term front-loading. I’m not sure I heard it before, but it’s very much what we have to do with our youngest child. It’s cut down a lot on tantrums and meltdowns. It’s a control issue with her, and how interesting to realize I used to do it a lot with myself and I’m not sure I do as much anymore. I feel less attached to what happens and I don’t know how to keep that going but I like it very much.

    We’re still human and largely NOT in control of the situations we find ourselves in at work or sometimes even outside of work. Maybe we’re put in those situations when we’re ready to learn something from it, a master plan that is a gift, if a hard one to feel.

    1. Very, very, very well said, BBB. I had to let this one sink in a bit. And it’s the old lesson of learning something from every disturbance I have. I agree with you – we are always here to get something out of our experiences to grow and expand our horizons. The cyclical nature you speak of is no doubt built into us, and like you said, it’s whether or not we see it or not. I think it’s all about the thing of “am I doing this right?”. That for me is what it comes down to and the self-doubt in that. Sigh. another lesson to learn 🙂

      Thanks for the very cool comments.

      Love and light,

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