If you’re unfamiliar with the term, the pink cloud refers to a phenomenon commonly experienced by people in the early stages of recovery. The term describes a euphoric feeling on the journey to recovery, when the person experiences a high not caused by the drug they have been abusing, but from life itself. Generally a short-lived experience, the phenomenon is known for its ability to carry a recovering addict on wings of bliss, giving them hope after the struggles and pain they have been through. That being said, there is such a thing as feeling too good about one’s recovery. That’s why the pink cloud is dangerous territory: it can create a sense of overconfidence that is dangerous, and could even lead to a relapse.
What Makes the Pink Cloud Syndrome Dangerous?
While it’s true that the pink cloud brings happiness and hope to recovering addicts, the phenomenon has a dark side to it. The feelings perpetuated by the pink cloud can hinder the person’s ability to see their problems for what they are. The syndrome encourages the recovering addict to chase after that feeling of happiness, just as they chased euphoria with drugs before. This leads to unrealistic expectations – the patient might be overconfident in their ability to sustain those feelings of bliss. Therefore, when this begins to fade, they can face crushing disappointment that could spur a relapse.
In fact, as warm and positive as the term sounds, the pink cloud is a negative term within the context of addiction. The truth is that life will never be “normal” for an addict – their struggles and reality operate on a different level from non-addicts. As a result, it is common for them to fluctuate more intensely between various states of emotion, from euphoria to despondency. That’s why it’s so important for addicts to have a clear-eyed view of this reality, and to continue living with the pink cloud’s parameters in mind.
The pink cloud can cause addicts to become detached with reality. They become preoccupied with sustaining their feelings of joy, to the detriment of the journey they are still very much on. What’s more, the pink cloud will often transform into a sort of defense mechanism that allows people to ignore the personal, familial, and financial issues they still need to deal with.
According to experts like Andrea King, Director of the University of Chicago’s Clinical Addictions Research Laboratory, irrationality is one of the biggest obstacles to addiction recovery. In a nutshell, this is what makes the pink cloud so very dangerous. It’s simply impossible to remain in a state of happiness at all times, no matter how much you want to. At some point, the patient will have to touch their feet back on the ground and the disappointment of the real world can be too much to handle, potentially triggering a relapse.
Additionally, the overconfidence produced by excessive positivity can cause the sufferer to lose sight of daily self-monitoring that is so crucial for successful recovery. The recovering addict may feel that they don’t really need support anymore, and that they’ll be fine on their own. Hence, they skip counseling sessions and meetings. “Why go to these meetings when I feel this amazing?” It can get to the point where the addict feels so confident in their sobriety that they think they can hang out at the bar without having to worry about their proximity to alcohol. This lack of self-care and excess of confidence could trigger a relapse.
How to Recover from the Pink Cloud
The first thing an addict needs to remember is that recovery, particularly in the early stages, is hard work. No one bounces back from an addiction. Of course, different people will adjust to their recovery differently, but if it feels too easy, something is wrong. For some people, recovery will always be an agonizing process, from beginning to end. For others, the early stage of recovery may be colored by excitement at the prospect of finally becoming demon-free.
If you’re on the pink cloud, it is vital that you keep one foot firmly planted in reality, and remain committed to your recovery plan no matter how confident you feel. When the pink cloud does begin to dissipate, it is normal to feel some depression. However, remaining grounded could allow you to head off the feelings of helplessness and hopelessness that could lead to a relapse.
The important thing is to be wholly engaged with your day-to-day program. Let’s have a look at some of the techniques you can use to resist the lure of the pink cloud.
Avoid old haunts:
The places you used to spend time in could trigger intense cravings. This also goes for friends you used to drink or use with. The pink cloud may lie to you, causing you to think you’re out of danger in these places because you’re so secure in your ability to abstain. This is not true. Instead of revisiting those places and people, focus on rebuilding stronger relationships with friends and family who love you. Not only will this help you improve damaged or broken relationships, but you’ll also receive the support you need in times of weakness. Practice sharing your thoughts and feelings so the people around you are better able to support you.
Stick to a routine:
Addiction recovery is not a miracle. It is difficult work that has to be repeated on a day to day basis. Stick to a healthy routine and lifestyle – continue eating well, getting enough sleep, and exercising. Don’t commit to a difficult routine right at the beginning – that’s just paving the way to disappointment if you’re unable to live up to your own unrealistic expectations.
Commit to a long term recovery plan:
Apart from a regular schedule and an exercise plan, your long term recovery plan should include therapy or after care in order to help you work on mental and emotional issues like anxiety and stress. You should also sign up for ongoing support systems like Twelve-Step meetings that give you access to other people who are going through similar struggles as you. A long term recovery plan is an important part of staying clean and sober.
Scottsdale Recovery Center can help implement an aftercare plan to keep you on a safe, realistic recovery track. It can be tempting to fall into the lures of the pink cloud, but remember to stay grounded: recovery is an ongoing process, and bouts of happiness are likely to come and go. This is completely normal, and if you need additional assistance in getting your head back in the right space, we’re only a call away.
Talk to Someone Who’s Been There. Talk to Someone Who Can Help. Scottsdale Recovery Center holds the highest accreditation (Joint Commission) and is Arizona’s premier rehab facility since 2007. Call 602-346-9142.