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Taking Up Space: Advice on how to approach excessive drinking of a sibling

Welcome to Taking Up Space, a series using the power of tarot and oracle cards to offer real-life advice for real-life people. Why the name? Because I view tarot as a home, a structure, in which there are 78 rooms (aka, the cards). We all live in this house, visiting different rooms at different points in our lives, sometimes camping out and sometimes peeking in to turn off a light or grab something we forgot in a dresser drawer. No matter what, we all deserve to take up as much space in these rooms, stay as long or as little as we need, and know we’re always safe and supported. THAT, to me, is the power of these cards.


But wait, there’s more! Tarot, in conjunction with the advice and guidance of an expert or person who has been through something similar is even more powerful, which is why I’ve asked for their help with this column.


DISCLAIMER: The advice in this column is not meant to replace the personalized advice and guidance of a professional. For entertainment purposes only.


About today’s expert:

Headshot for Darcy Scott
Darcy Scott

Darcy Scott is a therapist in Austin, Texas who runs a private practice specializing in neuropsychological counseling. Darcy has experience working with clients after experiencing traumatic brain injury. She also facilitates equine assisted psychotherapy, aka, she gets to work with horses in a therapeutic model. Currently, she’s working towards certification as a death doula, supporting those at the end of life. You can find her at DarcyScottCounseling.com, or at Vista Brewing Company in Driftwood, Texas enjoying a pint, where I was lucky enough to meet her while reading tarot last year.

Today’s question:
"My sister always drinks to uncomfortable excess when we're together. How to broach?"
From left to right: Nine of Pentacles, Seven of Pentacles, Justice and The Moon from the Rider-Waite-Smith tarot deck.
From left to right: Nine of Pentacles, Seven of Pentacles, Justice and The Moon from the Rider-Waite-Smith tarot deck.

What the cards say:

The Nine of Pentacles indicates that modeling healthy behaviors through your actions and leading by example is the best way to approach the subject of your sister’s drinking right now. Sharing stories of self-reliance, continuing to enjoy the fruits of your emotional, mental and spiritual labors will eventually begin to grow in her consciousness by proximity. Notice how the pentacles in the Nine of Pentacles’ garden are growing into the garden of the Seven of Pentacles. Similar to the man in this card, she will begin to quietly observe—consciously and unconsciously—how well your garden grows, how comfortably you stand on your own, how you have been able to transform your own baser instincts through discipline (noted by the falcon perched on her arm) for growth and development instead of self-destruction. They do not control you, for you have learned the power of intentionality and consciousness. When you embody these qualities, those close to you cannot help but be transformed in positive ways.


Justice comes in to validate that the scales will be rebalanced once your sister is ready to face her truth. Equilibrium is possible in this situation, but only when she is ready to delve further into her own buried fears, anxieties and roots of her current behaviors. The Moon is a place where self-deceit lives and sometimes it’s challenging to find our way into the depths of the subconscious, but this is a great sign that she will get there. It takes bravery, support and a role model to show us that change is possible. We need to know, feel and see the fact that someone else has lived this path to plant the seeds of belief within ourselves that we, too, can change. You can be that for your sister simply by living the conscious life you’ve already begun to cultivate and lovingly sharing your internal victories with her to find true connection.


The song playing as I finish this write up is “Back To You” by Benjamin Gordon. The love you have for your sister is transformative in and of itself. The love you have for yourself is the most transformative of all, because it also has the power to grow the seeds of love in her garden simply by your ability to model it.


What Darcy says:

I do believe that there is a difference between uncomfortable excess and addiction. And in this case, it sounds like we're talking about moments when you're together. Your sister seems to drink to a point where she's perhaps not in relationship or in connection with you, her sibling. Whenever anything is along the addiction line or vices that seem to cross a boundary, I do always recommend going to Al Anon and learning whether this is an addiction or not. Al Anon has great tools on how to address excess, how to address addiction, and how to manage your own anxieties around what is happening with others. So that's number one, for your own self-care.


As for broaching this with your sister, I would get really grounded first. Make sure that you're having the discussion with no shame or judgment around it, because there is no point in shaming or even in saying, “you drink too much.”


I would get to the point of how her drinking is affecting you, and get specific as to what feelings that brings up. For example: “I really feel uncomfortable, and I don't feel like I can connect with you in those moments.” It is probably best to do this in a conversation outside of drinking. I'm always a fan of being upfront and honest by sharing your experience of what it is like for you in the moments of discomfort.


Ultimately, if it doesn't change and you are still uncomfortable, you have to decide what's worth it. Do you make plans for only going out and doing things that do not involve alcohol? Do you have to set up boundaries around the relationship of when and how you do things or do you have to remove yourself from the situation entirely?


It's also important to make sure you're not trying to control her or her drinking. Let's say you're hosting a party with alcohol involved. What would be unhelpful is if she was invited and then everyone else could drink, but then you would be trying to keep her away from the alcohol. Instead, make sure you have the conversation before the party or outing and develop a plan if she does over drink, like saving her a spot in the guest room or simply not inviting her at all.


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