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Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Tarot and the 12 Steps: 7-9

This is post 3 of 4 examining how the first 12 tarot majors fit the 12 steps of addiction recovery.

Steps 1-3
Steps 4-6

 7. We humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings. 

The Lovers card usually shows some type of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden scenario, which we see here, pointedly absent of the angel Gabriel, but with a split-bodied Cupid and a rather hairy looking serpent slithering between Adam's legs. Interesting... But what would Adam and Eve have to do with us 'humbly asking [God] to remove our shortcomings'? It's complicated.

In the Garden of Eden is where our 'shortcomings' emerged. It's there that we became self-aware, and thus where remorse and shame originated. Shortcomings like dishonesty, fear, pride, greed, envy, blame, harmful acts, and resentment -- all of these emerged because of self-awareness, because we learned to compare ourselves to perfection and understood that we could never, ever measure up to it. It's not our imperfections, then, that we need to 'humbly ask [God] to remove' -- it's our shame at being imperfect, and the things we do as a result of that shame.

I told you it was complicated.

I think that what this step really means, or at least part of what it means,  is asking for the grace to accept ourselves fully, thus freeing ourselves from habits and behaviours that have resulted from our non-acceptance of self. And of course, the Lovers card is often described by readers as symbolising acceptance of and love of self.

'Remove my shortcomings,' then, becomes 'Help me love myself, my real self -- all of me.'

8. We made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.

It is so appropriate that this step is represented by the Chariot. Could there be a finer and more obvious symbol for someone mowing down everything and everyone in his path?? This particular Chariot card has eerie details such as the empty eyes and the lack of arms, showing a complete insensitivity to the needs of others, or the attempt to reach out to them.

I found a website where someone asked addicts to answer this question: 'When an addict is using, how do you feel about the pain you cause AT THE TIME YOU CAUSE IT? Not how you felt about it later, but AT THAT VERY MOMENT?'

 Here are some of the answers: 

'A very very large part of why I used is so that I would not FEEL.
Of course it didn't work 100% of the time... when it didn't work and I did FEEL,,, I usually felt JUSTIFIED. I found a way in my convoluted diluted brain to make it more your fault than mine. If I stole from you, you had it coming, because, you would have done the same to me, or you were selfish, or you wouldn't know anyhow, or you couldn't prove it was me, or it was somehow mine anyways. If I said something mean,,, you shouldn't be so sensitive, or you deserved it, or you should know better than to approach me then or...If I was disloyal to you,,,, you deserved it, or you weren't loyal to me, or you were thinking of being disloyal to me, or it would teach you not to ......I ALWAYS justified my bullshit... I found a way to justify even the worst of my behaviors'. 

'i became a very angry girl. if i caused any pain, W/O INTENDING to, no i didn't notice. when i WANTED to hurt people, I did & was GLAD. i was aware of my actions, though some foggy, but justified every last one if told i was mean. i didn't think so, just giving them what they deserved. THEY shouldn't call me or worse, try to HELP ME! the weird part is near my "bottom" I could never hurt people ENOUGH. I did my best to be the worst & yet it wasn't enough! i lost the GLAD feeling from before. so i say no i didn't see the pain cuz no human could've been at the receiving end of my anger & not been hurt.'

'i pushed my mother out of my apartment and down the stairs! and then, i threw her luggage down the stairs! My mother! My mother, who had traveled across the country to see me! I pushed her out and down the stairs! You want to know why? Because she smoked a cigarette in my apartment. You just don't care.'

Some addicts do tell a milder story (milder at least from their point of view, which still says a lot about how addicts feel when they are running you over!):

'I didn't steal from people or use others, instead I was often used by other addicts because I was a generous person even while using because I didn't like using alone so I would share my stuff 50/50 with whoever I was using with. I feel I was still a basically good person while using, I just wasn't around a lot and that hurt my family especially when there were family events I that I was expected to attend. So no I didn't intentionally hurt my loved ones. If I did hurt them at the time I was upset about it but I just used more drugs to make the shame and guilt go away.'

'Maybe I am an empathetic freak but drunk, drugged or delusional, I always saw and always will see the pain in other peoples eyes. I believe that is why I am not as patient as most with codependent mates waiting for their addicts to suddenly become fine outstanding citizens. I don’t believe when someone stops using drugs that they are going to be good people. I know I never stopped being what I consider a good person. Sure I have my faults but I have always been a good person at my core.'

This is the step, then, in which you allow yourself to open your eyes and sprout some arms and you look back and make a list of all the people you've ridden rough shod over along the way. 

9. We made direct amends to such people wherever possible except when to do so would injure them or others.

The ninth tarot major is either Strength or Justice, according to which deck you use. It was AE Waite who switched the original order of Justice at 8 and Strength at 11. I'm leaving them in the older order because it's older, and because it fits so well in the 12 steps.

Justice is not about punishment but what is fair. It's not about easing our conscience but about making things right.

We must make amends to people we don't like. We must approach those we owe and frankly explain our situation and make a plan for paying back all debts. We must stick to the repayment plan. We must make sure that our amends are not going to cause more harm than good by 1) asking if it's okay for us to make these amends, 2) talking to a sponsor who has had similar experience in making amends, 3) not shirking from doing it no matter how hard it seems to do.

Justice is about doing the right thing, weighing things up, balancing the scales.  It's got to be done. The Big Book says that until we make amends, there is no way we will ever be able to stay sober.

Daniloff Tarot (2012). 

Steps 10-12


  1. I was thinking with the Lovers that commitment might also be part of the Step. Here I think is where we really commit to some sort of spiritual practice to help remove our defects. So many people expect the god of their understanding to magically take all those defects away, but I believe I am the one primarily responsible for using a hoe to root them out. Otherwise, I will continue to put the responsibility for them off on someone/something else.

  2. Good thinking! I like that.

  3. That eigth step, I'd never really thought about it before. I mean, I've seen it on TV and all, but reading the first person descriptions from the addicts point of view... And yes, addicts often ride roughshod over others, for all kinds of reasons. A painful reminder of my father. And while AA may not be the only or necessarily best way to deal with addiction, at least it is a step in taking responsibility for what is going on.

  4. Remove shortcomings & Love yourself - good stuff. Perfect card for that step. This is a really BIG step for me, and always the hardest one. Oh and the following step - I like the Chariot, making amends with people you ran over on your way lol. Brilliant. Keep them coming.