How Tarot can help us during recovery.
While I will be focusing on recovery from substance use disorder, I have personally used tarot as a support system for many kinds of recovery including deep grief, rage, Complex P-TSD, mental health crises, and drug and alcohol addiction.
*To be clear, I am absolutely not advocating for using tarot (or anything else) without other systems in place for your recovery. It takes a scaffolding of support that looks different for each of us. I am sharing this as one powerful tool for those who may have limited access, or are exploring their options and considering their personal choices.*
Here are some of the ways that tarot can be a powerful ally during these deeply challenging times.
1) It can bring us back to the present moment. Most of us who suffer, or have suffered from addiction find it difficult to remain present. Many of us have C-PTSD and learning to dissociate was one of the ways we stayed alive. If we pay attention, we notice that we are almost always focused in the past or the future, rarely the present. When we begin the process of staying with the discomfort, especially during withdrawal phases, drawing a card can help us ground and offer a message to replace the repetition we might be “hearing.” This can be the difference between being able to ride the wave of a strong craving or relapsing.
2) It can serve as a confidential and neutral support system. We can come to our deck in the depths of our sorrow without worrying about how we appear. We can openly explore what we are experiencing without the inhibition of how we will be perceived. Often the realizations we come to on our own in this way are profound.
3) It can help us to repair our self-trust. In recovery, and with time, we may be able to rebuild trust with our loved ones but I have found that the hardest bridge to build was the one back to trusting myself. We tend to lie to ourselves most of all and that is a tender relationship to repair. Tarot helped immensely with this process, both in reading for myself and reading for others. I realized that my inner voice was there all along, I just had it on “mute.”
4) It can allow us to explore our triggers in our time, in a space where we feel comfortable. The only way to heal our shadows is to get to know them. Often we become aware of our shadows when we are faced with a trigger and our nervous system gets the best of us. With tarot, we are looking at the entirety of the human experience from birth to death and everything in between. Our reaction to these chapters in life can help us see where things are still raw and need attention without blowing up relationships and/or falling back into destructive patterns.
5) We can embody archetypes that we are not yet comfortable with. For those of us who have spent significant time in addiction, we are often quite “young” coming out of it. By that, I mean that we arrested the process of getting to know all of the facets of our personality. In a safe, and authentic way, we can harness some of these archetypes and see how they fit which is essentially what many people do in their youth. We can go to a gathering holding fiery Queen of Wands energy and see how it feels for us. We can go into a work meeting with cool and collected King of Swords on board and practice holding our boundaries. Embodying archetypes can be our first courageous steps into the world in our new skin.
6) We can learn the difference between our brain chemistry and our inner knowing. Brain chemistry yells. It is loud. It is meant to keep us safe, but it does not like when we step out of our comfort zone. Our inner knowing is quiet and soft. It often gets drowned out and we can miss subtle cues that are often the most important. Tarot is a beautiful tool for learning how to honour and be grateful for our brain chemistry without accepting its invitation to fear, and instead, turning to the wisdom that we all hold within us.
All recovery is a long and arduous battle that not everyone can understand. No matter what you are fighting your way through, I want you to know that I see you and I hope that you know that you are not alone.