The astrology of addiction and the (sometime) redemption is fascinating. Above we have the American actor Robert Downey Jr in his mug-shot years – drunk, disorderly and a non-stop, highly public substance abuser. And this after a stint of early fame courtesy of his (also an addict) film director dad. This character introduced his then eight year old son to wine and cannabis. It became a routine for father and son. So probably the peak of the Robert Downey Jr mad/bad times was April 1996, when he was arrested for speeding down Sunset Boulevard, in possession of heroin, cocaine and an unloaded handgun. Plus he was high. Obviously. And then in July 2003, he got sober. Not only that he pulled off one of the greatest comebacks in Hollywood history.
So Robert Downey Jr serves as a brilliant – albeit extreme example of addiction-astrology in action. If you’re thinking it comes down to Neptune – yes it does. Neptune is the classic “addictive” signature. And this is not to judge or finger point at anyone. Please don’t freak if you have Neptune squares all over the place. Neptune is a multi-faceted energy – with the astrological Neptune not really even resembling the bearded ocean god of myth.
Neptune is kaleidoscopic. Neptune – as i wrote in this old post – can break your heart. Neptune classically rules addictions and it is more likely to manifest as tricky, when it is making a square or an opposition. Neptune also rules people with great creative gifts and the potential for a spiritual connection beyond the reach of many others. Neptune is psychic powers and compassion but also that tug (like the tides) toward the next high, the “it’s going to be different this time” or the “I’m obviously not really an alcoholic/gambling addict because xyz”
So let’s look at RDJ’s natal chart + Neptune and then the key transits. Plus: Amy Winehouse & Russell Brand. I searched intensely for a successful female clean/re-habbed ex addict/user but could not find anyone with a birth time on record. I think women tend to keep more quiet about it than men. Or maybe they’re not prone to acting out as publicly as the men do.
Anyway, note RDJ’s Neptune. It is in house number 4 – the trident symbol – and in Scorpio. Now Neptune stays a LONG time in one sign. So everyone born between 1956 and 1970 has Neptune in Scorpio. These generational placements don’t say so much about an individual. But zoom in more and we note, okay, the house placement of Neptune.
RDJ grew UP with Neptune. His Dad giving him that first drink and joint at the age of 8? Neptune was in his house. Neptune raised him. See those red lines straight across from Neptune to the Moon and Jupiter? That’s Neptune hardwired into his psyche. And, it’s squared to his Leo Ascendant. That line is not shown in most charts. We know it’s square because Scorpio is a Fixed Sign and Scorpio always squares Leo + Aquarius and is opposite Taurus. Check that the numbers are close enough to make it an official aspect and voila.
So this is actually known as a Fixed T Square. Fixed because it is in the Fixed Signs and a T Square as there is no actual fourth planet in Aquarius there to make it a Grand Square, with four points. HOWEVER – this is debatable, you could argue (and people do) that the Aquarius Athene/Pallas and Descendant make it Grand Square.
Whatever you call it, Fixed squares with Neptune involved are over the top. Neptune trines and sextiles are more gentle. They feel like dream promptings and intuition you can trust. You may totally dabble in toxic Neptunian waters but you pull back. The full scale bender reality that RDJ was hurtling through at high velocity is the classic over the top, full commitment oomph of a Fixed Square.
That very same tenacity is now transformed, btw, into a career that is both fantastically fulfilling on a creative level and super lucrative. Plus he is a staunch member of the Hollywood recovery scene, actively helping younger addicts turn their lives around. So remember this: squares, especially big fixed squares involving Neptune can operate like trines once you’ve conquered them. They become a strength.
1996 was Jupiter square his Aries Sun-Mercury – Jupiter can take anything over the top. And he kept partying after that.
July 2003, when he got sober and sort of crawled out of the wreckage his life had become, was Pluto in trine to his Leo Ascendant and Sun, on his South Node. So you can see his natal Pluto is nicely placed in Virgo, alongside Uranus and Mars. Pluto in Sagittarius was not directly activating his natal Pluto BUT he was able to recognize and run with the Pluto power when he got a good strong fix on it. He recognized it because it felt familiar. Transits that resonate with something you’ve got as a natal strength are amazing. It feels like a door opens up within your psyche and you’ve got a whole new room in there. A whole wing maybe. You know those sorts of dreams?
He also had Jupiter hanging out near his Leo Ascendant AND Neptune heading for his Aquarius Descendant. One way or another, he was going to be having a relationship (Descendant) with Neptune. Obviously, he could have chosen to spiral down the route he was on but, as he put it: “I said, ‘You know what? I don’t think I can continue doing this.’ And I reached out for help, and I ran with it.”
Neptune is just as much 12 Step and Sobriety as it is drugs and delusion. It’s altered consciousness and the search for transcendence or meaning. Neptune can break your heart but it can also save your life. You could see this as Jupiter pushing for growth, Pluto augmenting that with the big push for genuine change – the “it’s time” of the Judgment card in Tarot and Neptune in Aquarius moving in to activate that natal Grand Square.
Russell Brand – the British comedian turned activist – is Sun Opposite Neptune. Again, that intensity of Neptune in hard aspect (square or opposition) to a really vital point in his chart energies. Neptune also trines his Mars and Jupiter. So that’s like an auto-setting for going hard at it. Mars is energy and stamina – in aspect to Neptune, if there is a downward spiral, Mars will make the whole train go faster. Of course, it can also be super shamanic.
Brand has a Neptune T-square also: Neptune opposite Sun square Lilith in Pisces. His Neptune is also in Sagittarius and in the highly visible 10th House. So he has turned his sobriety/recovery into an actual public aspect of his career – books, docos, activism etc.
The superbly talented singer Amy Winehouse had Neptune conjunct Moon and square her Sun – another Neptune T-square. Her Neptune was also trine her Mars. These people can just keep going and going. Until…they can’t. When she died, the North Node was on her natal Neptune and Neptune, just newly into Pisces, was in trine to her Moon.
I read somewhere that she died drinking vodka (having kicked the heroin, she upped the other) googling herself on the internet. And that her tiny frame (Mercurial Gemini Rising) was so hideously stoic with the alcohol by then that she had drunk nearly two bottles of vodka and her bodyguard could not even tell she had been drinking when she came down to the kitchen to get more.
So there are a few things to take from this. Nothing is so heaven/hell in its polarity as Neptune. Uranus is not – as you might think – so connected with drugs and alcohol as Neptune. Uranus is more often subversive and sobriety has become subversive. Pluto? Pluto sins are more sexual and compulsive in nature. But if you have an addict in your family or circles, it could be a worthwhile exercise to study their Neptune. Or even your own. Relationships that feature strong Neptune squares in the Composite (see previous Hack re composite charts) can often amplify each person’s tendencies toward the dilution of reality.
As Caroline Knapp – the Sun/Mars/Neptune in Scorpio square Leo Rising author of Drinking: A Love Story once wrote – Alcohol, of course, coursed through our romance like a river, providing the undercurrents. Though it is desperately sad and poignant, this is an absolutely amazing haute Neptune book.
Finally, some transits can really wake up Neptune Vibe. Watch for when you have Neptune squaring a personal planet. This can be when you totally want to tie one on more than usual or be more prone to relapse if you’re abstaining. The Saturn square Neptune situation till late 2016 is bringing addiction and alcohol issues more into the public eye than ever before. There has never been this much focus on the social practices of binge drinking, potential consequences of drinking, debate over drug laws and popular sobriety memoirs or celebrities being open about their membership of sobriety fellowships.
Neptune can be a major numb out but Neptune can also be incredible instincts and inspiration. Neptune, of course, rules Pisces and the 12th House. That old astrological cliche of the two fish swimming in two directions (up and down) has resonance; with Neptune, you can turn at any time. You can turn that tide. If you’ve ever stood in the water and felt that strong tidal pull, you know Neptune.
So what are your thoughts on all this? Have you any Neptune natal or transit examples of your own? And can you see how Saturn square Neptune in Pisces is really spot-lighting this whole deal?