The Pink Cloud’s Dark Side
If you’re newly sober and feel like you’re on top of the world, you may be riding the pink cloud. No one is suggesting that you’re not allowed to be happy, but the sense of euphoria you’re experiencing can make it hard to keep a realistic perspective regarding the challenges of building a sober life for yourself. If left unchecked, the pink cloud could put you at risk of relapse.
About the Pink Cloud
The term pink cloud is used to refer to a period of intensely pleasurable emotions that occurs when a person becomes sober after an extended period of substance abuse. The pink cloud is characterized by feelings of hope, elation, and optimism. The person in recovery believes that the future holds nothing but good things. The worst symptoms of withdrawal are over, so they are feeling good mentally and physically. They are considered to be “high on life” and feeling unstoppable.
Alcoholics Anonymous and other 12-Step programs commonly use the pink cloud slang term, but you may hear it in other recovery-oriented groups as well. However, it is important to note that not everyone experiences the pink cloud of recovery in the same way. Some people seem to skip over this phase entirely, while others only experience a brief time of riding the pink cloud.
There’s nothing wrong with being proud of what you’ve accomplished. Going through detox and completing residential treatment is an achievement that you should be proud of. It takes courage to commit to making a major life change.
Complacency is the pink cloud’s dark side. The pink cloud can put you at risk if it prevents you from having a realistic expectation of what it means to live with a substance use disorder.
The pink cloud’s negative effects can involve:
- Overlooking the day-to-day responsibilities of a person in recovery
- Believing that you are cured and no longer need treatment
- Ignoring problems or situations that threaten your perception that life is wonderful
- Becoming overconfident in situations that carry a high risk of relapse, such as attending parties where drugs or alcohol will be present
- Brushing off warnings from others that you might not be looking at situations clearly
How to Stay on Track
You can enjoy the pink cloud while staying on track with your recovery if you keep in mind the following tips:
- Follow treatment recommendations. Trust that your counselor and other care providers have your best interests at heart. A substance use disorder is a chronic illness. As such, it’s normal to experience ups and downs in the treatment process. Even though you may be feeling wonderful right now, the recommendations of your care team are designed to prevent future problems.
- Keep working the 12-Steps. If you’re actively involved in a 12-Step program, the fourth step of “Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves” seems to be where the pink cloud phase often ends. Your sponsor may also be able to offer some guidance on enjoying the pink cloud’s benefits without putting your sobriety at risk.
- Get comfortable asking for help. Trying to do everything on your own sets you up for failure. Continue to build your support system and work on getting comfortable asking others for help when you are struggling. Turning to others for assistance will keep you grounded as you continue to progress in your recovery.
- Document your feelings in your journal. The act of writing down your feelings allows you to mentally step back and view situations in a more objective light. Journaling can help you learn to separate your emotions from facts, which may prevent you from making any rash decisions that put your sobriety at risk.
- Strive for progress, not perfection. The pink cloud is often accompanied by high expectations, but the reality is that setbacks are normal in the recovery program. Making mistakes, even if you have a slip or full-blown relapse, doesn’t mean that you’re doomed to fail. It’s only an indication that you still have work to do before you find a treatment approach that fits your needs.
At Waypoint Recovery Center, a leading South Carolina drug and alcohol treatment facility, we are committed to providing our clients with a full continuum of care. This includes continuing care and recovery management services designed to help you deal with post-treatment challenges such as the pink cloud. Addiction is a chronic illness, but we’re here to help you learn how to make the most of your life in recovery.