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Follow the Winners Charming Is The Word For Alcoholics

Butterflies are Free

This 1940 article was written by Fulton Oursler, then editor of Liberty magazine. If so, it is a follow-up to his 1939 article in that magazine called "Alcoholics and God" which helped AA become widely known (see Big Book pg. xviii). Of personal interest to me, it is an early, and perhaps original, use of the butterfly metaphor for recovery.

Down at the very bottom of the social scale of AA society are the pariahs, the untouchables, and the outcasts, all known by one excoriating epithet -- relatives. I am a relative. I know my place. I am not complaining. But I hope no one minds if I venture the plaintive confession that there are times, oh, many, many, times when I wish I had been an alcoholic. By that I mean that I wish I were an AA. The reason is that I consider the AA people the most charming in the world.

Such is my considered opinion. As a journalist it has been my fortune to meet many of the people who are considered charming. I number among my friends stars, and lesser lights of stage and cinema; writers are my daily diet. I know the ladies and gentleman of both political parties; I have been entertained in the White House. I have broken bread with kings and ministers and ambassadors and I say after that catalog, which could be extended, that I would prefer an evening with my AA friends to any person or group of persons I have indicated.

I ask myself why I consider so charming these alcoholic caterpillars who have found their butterfly wings in Alcoholics Anonymous. There are more reasons than one, but I can name a few.

They are imaginative, and that helps to make them alcoholics. Some of them drank to flog their ambition on to greater efforts. Others guzzled only to black out unendurable demons that rose in their imagination. But when they have found their restoration, their imagination is responsive to new incantations, and their talk abounds with color and light, and that makes them charming companions too.

The AA people are what they are, and they were what they were, because they are sensitive, imaginative, possessed of a sense of humor and awareness of universal truth. They are sensitive, which means they are hurt easily, and that helped them to become alcoholics. But when they have found their restoration, they are still as sensitive as ever; responsive to beauty and to truth and eager about the intangible glories of this life. That makes them charming companions.

They are possessed with a sense of humor. Even in their cups they have been known to say damnable funny things. Often it was being forced to take seriously the little and mean things of life that make them seek escape in a bottle. But when they have found restoration, their sense of humor finds a blessed freedom, and they are able to reach a godlike state where they can laugh at themselves, the very height of self conquest. Go to the meetings and listen to the laughter. At what are they laughing? At ghoulish memories over which weaker souls would cringe in useless remorse. And that makes them wonderful people to be with by candlelight.

And they are possessed of a sense of universal truth. That is often a new thing in their hearts. The fact that this at-one-meant with God's universe had never been awakened in them is sometimes the reason why they drank. The fact that it was at last awakened is almost always the reason why they were restored to the good and simple ways of life. Stand with them when the meeting is over, and listen while they say the "Our Father." They have found a power greater than themselves which they diligently serve. And that gives them a charm that never was elsewhere on land or sea. It makes you know that God, Himself, is really charming, because the AA people reflect His mercy and His forgiveness.

I wish everyone could be in AA,
and if everyone were,
there would be no need for jails.
Big Book pg. 542