Get help today 888-319-2606 or sign up for 24/7 text support.
American Addiction Centers National Rehabs Directory

The Butterfly Connection in Addiction Recovery

I love butterflies. In fact, people who have been to my website know that my tagline is “If nothing ever changed, there would be no butterflies.” For so many people, just seeing a butterfly brightens their day. But how much do we know about the awe-inspiring journey that butterflies have to take to become who they are?

I deeply believe two things: One is that people really can change – if they choose to.  The other is that butterflies are astonishing creatures – for so many reasons. Allow me to tell you about both of these beliefs.

The Change

Let’s start with the amazing butterfly. It’s not just that they are beautiful – every species is graceful and lovely, freedom loving and strong beyond belief. But what most people don’t think about is that, before the butterfly became that butterfly, it began its life as a lowly caterpillar.

I call caterpillars “lowly” because they mostly spend their time crawling along the ground. Little boys love to step on them and squish them into pancakes. Little girls love to shriek – generally in mock fear – and then run away when they see one. And caterpillars are one of the favorite creatures for science teachers to use when they teach dissection in biology class. That poor caterpillar gets no respect at all!

But caterpillars have an instinct – a vitally important instinct that I understand and respect. At some point, they know without question that, if they don’t change, they’ll die. So they stop eating, hang upside down from a tree, create a cocoon around themselves filled with bug juice, and they sit there for as long as it takes for them to basically change their entire DNA and complete their metamorphosis. We can only imagine how uncomfortable and downright icky it would be to sit in that place and do what has to be done in order to be able to continue living.

I wonder – Could they possibly have any idea of what is about to happen to them, as they undergo their transformative process? Because then – as if by magic – a butterfly emerges from that cocoon. And although people often said before, “Ewwww, a caterpillar!” – those same people then say, “Ooooh, a butterfly!”

That is a world of difference – and it is a world of difference I understand because, like many of you, I used to be a caterpillar.

My Caterpillar Days

In my caterpillar days, I had little or no self-respect. I couldn’t see that there was much of anything worthwhile about me. I had grown up in a dysfunctional, addicted family that didn’t value me very much, and as a child I understandably interpreted that to mean that I wasn’t very special in any kind of way. My mistaken but totally believed explanation developed into such a faulty core belief that I developed an “incurable” illness (Crohn’s Disease) and then became addicted to the very medications the doctors prescribed for me month after month, year after year. Life was pretty dismal for this depressed, suicidal, lowly caterpillar.

Anyone can become a butterfly. Anyone can. All it takes is making the choice to do that. Would you rather keep crawling along the ground, getting squished and feeling disrespected – or would you like to come and fly with me?-Candace PlattorAnd then one day, after 15 years of active addiction to prescription pills, alcohol, and other drugs, I made a decision. I didn’t know it then, but I was on my way to becoming a butterfly. It was either that or death for me, without question. I began creating my own cocoon of caring, supportive people, cried my many tears, screamed my pain until I no longer needed to – and then, much to my own surprise, emerged as a butterfly!

I am now a strong, passionate, freedom-loving butterfly with nearly 30 years of continued sobriety from all mind-altering substances. I have written two award-winning books that help other addicts and their families to become butterflies, too.

I do work I love and am passionate about, I live in beautiful Vancouver, Canada in an apartment with an amazing view of the surrounding water and nearby mountains. I still sometimes have growth periods that make my hair stand on end – because I’m human. But I feel very proud of myself for the life I’ve created – and I really want to encourage you come to that place within yourself, too.


Anyone can become a butterfly. Anyone can. All it takes is making the choice to do that.

Would you rather keep crawling along the ground, getting squished and feeling disrespected – or would you like to come and fly with me?

Image Courtesy of iStock

Was this page helpful?
Thank you for your feedback.

American Addiction Centers (AAC) is committed to delivering original, truthful, accurate, unbiased, and medically current information. We strive to create content that is clear, concise, and easy to understand.

Read our full editorial policy

While we are unable to respond to your feedback directly, we'll use this information to improve our online help.