The Butterfly Effect of Outreach to HCP (Health Care Professionals)

The butterfly effect is the idea that small, seemingly trivial events may ultimately result in something with much larger consequences. For instance, when a butterfly flaps its wings in Argentina, that tiny change in air pressure could eventually cause a tornado in Iowa.

The term was coined in the 1960s by Edward Lorenz, a meteorology professor at MIT, who was studying weather patterns. He devised a model demonstrating that if you compare two starting points indicating current weather that are near each other, they’ll soon drift apart – and later, one area could experience severe storms, while the other is dead calm.

Lorenz theorized that because everything in life is part of larger systems, even trivial events can have significant impacts on other things: “one flap of a seagull’s wings could change the course of weather forever.”  He later changed that metaphor to a butterfly, and the phenomenon is now widely known as the ‘butterfly effect.’


What does this butterfly effect have to do with us, as sober members of AA?  Everything, actually.  Because however you apply the imperative in Step 12, “.. we tried to carry this message to alcoholics ..”, the reality is our actions today, no matter how big or small, can have a massive impact on our own and on others’ lives. 


On March 3, 2022, a fellow alcoholic read my post on ArenA and immediately dispatched an email to my HLO inbox. The sender has granted her permission to share it with AA members.

I live in France, just outside of Geneva, Switzerland and am reading your very timely ArenA article. I am an active fellow in AA Geneva and have been sober for 13 years. I recently went on a 12th step call after someone called the helpline for a young woman who was drinking in a hotel room and could not stop. She took herself to the hospital twice but was sent away. We called an ambulance who came and they decided she was ‘not bad enough’ to be taken to hospital. SOS médecin would not come to the hotel when we called. The psychiatric hospital gave her a date 6 days later to come and dry out. She was found dead in her bed by day 5. 

I am still reeling from the experience and now know how much work is needed with the medical professionals to educate them. You have my details below and would love to start some educational projects in the Geneva area. Thank you for your service.

Name withheld upon request

Whatever reaction you had reading about the death of another alcoholic, I couldn’t help but think ‘that could have been me .. but for the grace of God’ and if you’re reading this post, you are living proof alcoholism does not have to be a death sentence. 

But in my service position as Health Liaison Officer (HLO) of English-speaking AA Continental European Region (CER), I can only assist willing members, groups and IGs by leading outreach initiatives and sharing best practices on how to cooperate with local health professionals. 


A current initiative began in March after hearing a pharma sales executive, fired from his job after 25 years due to his drinking, speak at a Basel fellowship zoom meeting on his 3rd sobriety anniversary. We connected after the meeting and thanks to his industry insight and personal desire to educate Swiss HCP (health care professionals), developed a model HCP outreach program. We’ve been testing it with local groups in Basel and Zurich and initial results are promising.

Outreach efforts are also getting underway in Geneva, assisted by their IG’s PIO and the member motivated in part by the unsuccessful 12th Step call quoted above. Another friend of Bill’s working on the Aviano NATO AirBase, 100 km north of Venice, adapted the strategy to secure a F2F meeting with the base Chief Medical Officer later this month. 


Despite the difficulty of groups getting started doing local HCP outreach, the butterfly effect is cause for optimism. In all of the outreach efforts noted above, it required only one member to contact me and say “How can I make a difference?” Then using digital communication tools, other local members of their fellowship were informed and local working groups formed. Content, slide templates, texts, “sales” training and other resources are available upon request. 

Ironically, the same HCP misconceptions about AA and alcoholism are turning out to be HCP working groups’ best advocates. For example, a young artist working as a bike courier, told me after hearing my appeal for HCP outreach at an IG meeting, that he had previously sought professional help for his violent behavior when drunk. The clinic’s abuse counselors advised him to continue drinking – but control the amount he drank. LOL.

Fortunately, he found AA and its solution before he lost his marriage or worse. Today he’s a sober active member of the Zurich fellowship and is arranging a meeting with the same counselors. 


Are you willing to help problem drinkers in your community find AA through their HCP? 

If so, here are 3 ways to take action right now:

  1. Propose forming a new HCP Outreach committee to your IG or home group.
  2. Contact me ( to get support for your local initiatives.
  3. Join the HLO group chat to stay informed about HCP “sales” training, texts, slide decks, AA lit recommendations and current lessons learned doing outreach to HCP.


“Physicians who are familiar with alcoholism agree there is no such thing as making a normal

drinker out of an alcoholic.” (Alcoholics Anonymous, p. 31)

Each group has but one primary purpose – to carry its message to the alcoholic who still suffers.

(Tradition 5, The Twelve Traditions of Alcoholics Anonymous)


Submitted by Joel B.

Health Liaison Officer of Continental European Region of Alcoholics Anonymous Great Britain


Mobile / WhatsApp +41 79 703 8003


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