Carrie Fisher? Courtney Love? Edward Dowling? Mariette Hartley? Anonymous?
Some of us can’t find heaven without backing away from hell.
This saying has been attributed to actress and writer Carrie Fisher and to singer and actress Courtney Love. Would you please explore this topic?
Quote Investigator: Priest Edward Dowling was an advisor to Bill W. (William Griffith Wilson) who was the co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous. Dowling delivered the following advice that was recorded in a chapter of the 1957 book “Alcoholics Anonymous Comes of Age: A Brief History of A.A.”. Boldface added to excerpts by QI:[ref] 1985 (1957 Copyright), Alcoholics Anonymous Comes of Age: A Brief History of A.A., Chapter: Religion Looks at Alcoholics Anonymous by Edward Dowling and Rev. Samuel Shoemaker, Quote Page 256, Alcoholics Anonymous World Services Inc., New York. (Verified with scans) [/ref]
I doubt if there is anybody in this hall who really ever sought sobriety. I think we were trying to get away from drunkenness. I don’t think we should despise the negative. I have a feeling that if I ever find myself in Heaven, it will be from backing away from Hell.
QI believes that Edward Dowling is the leading candidate for creator of this saying.
Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.
In 1960 Bill W. wrote a piece in “The AA Grapevine”, the journal of Alcoholics Anonymous, and he credited to saying to Dowling:[ref] 1988, The Language of the Heart: Bill W.’s Grapevine Writings by Bill W. (William Griffith Wilson), Chapter: To Father Ed — Godspeed!, Date: June 1960, Start Page 364, Quote Page 366, The AA Grapevine, Inc., New York. (Verified with scans) [/ref]
Everyone then present will remember this famous quote from Father Ed’s St. Louis talk:
“There is a negative approach from agnosticism. This was the approach of Peter the Apostle. ‘Lord, to whom shall we go?’ I doubt if there is anybody in this hall who really ever sought sobriety. I think we were trying to get away from drunkenness. I don’t think we should despise the negative. I have a feeling that if I ever find myself in Heaven, it will be from backing away from Hell.”
In 2005 “The Denver Post” of Colorado published a piece about suicide prevention. The journalist spoke with actress Mariette Hartley who was scheduled to address a fundraiser for Suicide Prevention Coalition of Colorado. The article quoted Hartley who employed an instance of the saying:[ref] 2005 August 9, The Denver Post, Spread word on suicide prevention by Diane Carman (Denver Post Staff Columnist), Quote Page B-01, Denver, Colorado. (NewsBank Access World News) [/ref]
They’re determined to save lives by educating people about suicide, she said.
“Many of us get to heaven by backing away from hell.”
Carrie Fisher was a friend of Courtney Love, and in 2006 Fisher wrote an introduction to “Dirty Blonde: The Diaries of Courtney Love”. Fisher employed a version of the saying, but she disclaimed credit:[ref] 2006, Dirty Blonde: The Diaries of Courtney Love by Courtney Love, Researched and edited by Ava Stander, Introduction by Carrie Fisher, Unnumbered Page, Faber and Faber: An Affiliate of Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York. (Verified with scans) [/ref]
There’s a saying: “Some of us can’t find heaven without backing away from hell.” Well, it seems to me that that’s been part of Courtney Love’s experience—not that she’s found heaven, but I’m sure she has seen glimpses of the place. How could she not, with all her experience fighting her demons?
In 2008 Fisher used the expression within her memoir “Wishful Drinking”:[ref] 2008, Wishful Drinking by Carrie Fisher, Chapter 10: The Newly Made Bystander, Quote Page 149, Simon & Schuster, New York. (Verified with scans) [/ref]
I heard someone say once that many of us only seem able to find heaven by backing away from hell. And while the place that I’ve arrived at in my life may not precisely be everyone’s idea of heavenly, I could swear sometimes—if I’m quiet enough—I can hear the angels sing.
In 2016 a syndicated feature from “USA Today” presented several quotations from Carrie Fisher. The piece printed the saying while citing Fisher’s memoir Wishful Drinking”, but the phrasing was somewhat inaccurate:[ref] 2016 December 28, Victoria Advocate, Carrie Fisher, never at a loss for words by Bill Keveney (USA Today), Quote Page 8B, Column 5, Victoria, Texas. (Newspapers_com) [/ref]
FROM HER 2008 MEMOIRS, ‘WISHFUL DRINKING’:
“Sometimes you can only find Heaven by slowly backing away from Hell.”
“I feel I’m very sane about how crazy I am.”
“I quote fictional characters, because I’m a fictional character myself!”
In conclusion, QI believes that Edward Dowling deserves credit for the saying under examination. Mariette Hartley, Carrie Fisher, and others have used the expression after it entered circulation.
Image Notes: Red and blue planet depicted by geralt at Pixabay. Image has been cropped and resized.
(Great thanks to AnxiousPony whose inquiry led QI to formulate this question and perform this exploration.)