Sobriety and the Stars: How to Use Astrology in Recovery
Astrology is everywhere right now — horoscope books and apps and even “retrograde” memes (I’m looking at you, Mercury).
But although oversimplified or “pop” astrology can be fun, it rarely connects you to your personal astrology chart, which can be an important tool for healing and recovery. It’s a tool I wish I had been open to sooner. My astrology chart certainly would have helped me and reinforced my path to sobriety for the past 15 years.
When I first got sober, I thought astrology was too hippy-dippy for my taste. I didn’t like being put into small “Sun sign” boxes with a horoscope. Nothing I read ever resonated with me. However, I see now that my own cosmic blueprint could have been yet another way for me to feel more confident in my decision to get sober.
In case you don’t know much about astrology, here’s what’s important: When astrologers speak of retrogrades, full moons, or other planetary alignments, they’re referring to what is going on in the sky on particular day or moment. This information describes potential energies all of us may experience given the current cosmic configurations we have in common.
Depending on what was going on astrologically when you were born, however, this information may or may not be applicable to you in the same way.
That’s where your personal astrology birth chart, or natal chart, comes in. The chart is essentially a planetary snapshot of the moment you were born (this is what I mean when I say “cosmic blueprint”). Because astrology simultaneously operates in the realms of the collective and the individual, understanding only the first can lead to an imbalance of information. Not knowing what makes each of us unique leaves us susceptible to superficial mass astrology generalizations (Mercury Retrograde will be terrible!), or thinking that there’s something wrong with us based on the stars at our birth (everyone knows that all Scorpios are intense and that Leos are dramatic, right?).
The natal chart is a suspended moment in time that epitomizes our whole self — the good, the bad, the ugly, and the beautiful.
That’s one of the reasons I encourage self-knowledge foremost when using astrology.
The first step is looking at your chart, which can serve as a guide for your personal unfolding. The natal chart is a suspended moment in time that epitomizes our whole self — the good, the bad, the ugly, and the beautiful. As a cosmic map of the soul, it shines a light on our ancestry, psychological patterns, relationship attachment issues, and how our greatest wounds may manifest in the world.
I like to think of astrology as multi-layered, with each level offering a deeper understanding of your complexity. The first layer is your natal chart (you on a personal level); the second, what is happening in the sky at any given moment (collective transits such as a full moon or Mercury Retrograde); and the third putting the two together for a more complete picture.
Your Personal Observatory
Like other self-awareness tests and profiles such as Myer-Briggs, Strengths Finder, Enneagram, or Human Design, astrology allows us to bring greater awareness to our unconscious patterns and tendencies. Astrology also allows us to reiterate our strengths and superpowers to boost confidence and minimize places of insecurity.
Bear with me while I offer another peek into how astrology works: Most horoscopes you’ll read focus on the Sun sign (i.e. the position of the sun in your astrology chart and what you’ll most likely know as your “Zodiac sign”). But the chart speaks to much more: it shows the angles of the planets, the positions of the many asteroids — there are more than a million of them in our solar system — all of which showcase your complexity.
When you understand the planetary influences that are unique to you based on what was happening the moment you were born, you can find new ways to lean toward your unique gifts and away from self-destructive patterns. (These often evolve from the same place in our chart.)
The beauty of astrology is that the shadow side of one planet also offers us a hidden strength. Both the positive and negative parts of your chart can reveal which tools you have at your disposal for recovery as well as other aspects of untapped potential that await on the other side of sobriety.
When you understand the planetary influences that are unique to you based on what was happening the moment you were born, you can find new ways to lean toward your unique gifts and away from self-destructive patterns.
An example is Neptune, which I have prominently in my own natal chart and I see often in the charts of those with alcohol or other use disorders. Having the planet Neptune next to or at an angle to the Sun, Moon, or rising (in my case my Moon) when you are born can suggest a desire to escape or disassociate as a way of avoiding discomfort. In my own case, I often feel overwhelmed by my own feelings and then want to disappear.
Marijuana and alcohol were perfect salves for getting me out of my body and losing myself in something, and somewhere, else.
Redirecting Your Energies
Since I stopped drinking, that same sensitivity has become my superpower.
When in a difficult expression Neptune promotes permeability and anxiety. But its gifts are numerous, too: intuition, meditation, imagination, and flow states such as when you become immersed in photography, writing, or any hobby you enjoy.
Now, instead of drinking when I’m overwhelmed, I channel my Neptune energies and sensitivity into being an astrologer. I can offer intuitive guidance and keep up with my meditation or qigong practice. When I need a break or feel anxiety kick in, I lean into watching movies or listening to music — both Neptune activities — instead of losing myself into substance.
Others with the same planetary combination may not have this same issues. For them, the energy may be focused on their imagination, or being a filmmaker, or even spiritual bypassing (forcing ourselves to always stay positive and not examine our pain or the pain of others) as a way of avoiding difficult emotions. Although having a certain aspect in our chart doesn’t “make” anyone have a substance or alcohol use disorder, it can indicate the potential for it.
But it’s important to remember: We are never stuck in a pattern in our chart or destined to struggle with it — often with a bit of new context and integration it can be transformed into a superpower. And knowing our superpowers can be a confidence boost that can soothe insecurity and remember why we are worthy of taking care of ourselves.
Feeling astro-curious now? You may be ready to dive deeper into your natal chart. There are a few options to explore:
1. Look up your natal chart for free online.
Cafe Astrology will give you a basic overview of planetary locations and relationships when you were born and an ability to look at their current locations.
In particular, pay attention to the sign of your Sun and Moon as well as which planets have an angle, or aspect, to them. This is called the house system and, for me, it’s the last piece of your chart to understand.
You can then look up the planetary combinations or signs on the website or do a search to get other opinions and see what resonates with you. However, sometimes this approach can feel a bit overwhelming to translate so much astrology language. Because of that, it may be easier to work with someone who spends a lot of time staring at the stars (more next).
Both the positive and negative parts of your chart can reveal which tools you have at your disposal for recovery as well as other aspects of untapped potential that await on the other side of sobriety.
2. Work with an astrologer one-on-one.
To find an astrologer to work with, you could try Yelp, Instagram, or Facebook. Or, there’s always my favorite: a good ol’ fashioned word-of-mouth recommendation from a friend or family member. You can then poke around and see whom you feel connected to.
I also suggest paying attention to how they describe transits in social media posts or blogs. Do they make everything seem doom-and-gloom or do they describe astrological happenings in terms of possibility? Are they only giving advice or are they also sharing themselves with practical examples of how the planets work together in a chart?
These differences indicate how likely they may be to be able to hold the complexity of your chart while grounding it into reality.
3. Take your sweet time.
Understanding the natal chart can be a lifelong journey, although looking at a few specific places with the most impact can enable us to take leaps in our self-awareness. And once you feel sufficiently comfortable with some of the basics of your personal chart, you may be reading to delve deeper into an understanding of the current cosmic energies. That way you can discern more clearly which transits to pay the most attention to in the sky, such a specific eclipse or Saturn Return, based on your chart.
Is astrology a perfect system? No. Is it the only tool to use to support my sobriety? By no means. But it absolutely offers us clues to becoming more intimate with ourselves, as well as tools for remembering who we are when the going gets rough — what better place to look up to than the sky the moment you were born.
Originally published at www.thetemper.com on March 11, 2019.