A life of addiction causes so much pain, hurt, and grief, so sometimes its assumed that in recovery, everything will be different. While life in recovery is much more rewarding, it’s not always flowers and sunshine. In early recovery, people often experience a mixture of highs and lows as they gradually adjust to living a life without the influence of drugs or alcohol. Sometimes though, they may experience a short period of elation and euphoria known as the pink cloud.
What is the Pink Cloud?
A new lifestyle of sobriety is refreshing, which can result in a natural high during the early days and weeks of sobriety. People sometimes call this the “pink cloud.” The pink cloud is a term that originated in AA, and although the term is not used in the Big Book, it is something most recovering alcoholics and addicts are aware of. It is a phrase that is used to describe feelings of elation and euphoria in early sobriety.1
The pink cloud, also sometimes referred to as the “honeymoon phase” of sobriety, is often short-lived. During this time, a person may feel happy, confident, and successful. Essentially, they feel like they’re floating in the clouds (hence the name). The pink cloud is said to be the result of the fog finally lifting after years of substance abuse. The person can finally see clearly and enjoy a life that is free of drug and alcohol abuse.
How Long Does the Pink Cloud Last?
Although it would be nice to always be happy, positive, and excited while living a sober life, it’s just not realistic or honest to remain that way constantly. The pink cloud can last for days or even weeks, but its duration entirely depends on the person and their own personal experience in recovery. Some people even say the pink cloud comes at goes at various points throughout their life in recovery.
The Dangers of the Pink Cloud
Although the pink cloud sounds like a very positive thing (and it certainly can be), the term is often used in a negative way. Typically, people in long-term recovery are more aware of the potential dangers of the pink cloud than those who have less experience in sobriety.
To newcomers, the pink cloud is a magical thing that makes them feel happy, accomplished, and like they can do just about anything. However, to those that have experienced it before, the pink cloud is viewed as a short-lived and dangerous phase that can negatively affect a person’s long-term recovery in more ways than one. For example:
The pink cloud can create unrealistic expectations about life in recovery. Feelings of euphoria, hope, and joy in recovery aren’t bad, but they can create unrealistic expectations about what a sober life looks like. The pink cloud can make a person believe that sobriety is easy and that they don’t have to work to maintain it, but that kind of mindset is very dangerous and it can quickly lead to relapse. It won’t always be easy to stay sober and at times, a person may feel sad, hopeless, or discouraged, but with the right support, he or she can get through the hard times and come out stronger on the other side.
The pink cloud can make people ignore real-life challenges. The natural high of the pink cloud makes it easier for people to turn a blind eye to difficult circumstances and challenges in life instead of learning how to deal with them sober. Dealing with life on life’s terms is an essential part of recovery and the pink cloud can hinder that process.
The pink cloud can create a false sense of security and confidence. Although it’s great to feel secure and confident in sobriety, that typically comes with time. A false sense of security and confidence, on the other hand, can be dangerous. Being over-confident about one’s ability to stay sober can lead a person to believe that they can maintain their sobriety on their own without support, face their triggers without suffering any ill effects, or that they can return to controlled drug and alcohol use. None of these attitudes or beliefs are conducive to lasting recovery.
The pink cloud can cause disappointment when it fades. When the natural high wears off, the disappointment that is left can lead a person to feel hopeless, depressed, and discouraged. These feelings can lead to relapse, especially if the person lacks the proper support to stay sober.
In short, the pink cloud is nice while it lasts, but it can also hinder long-term recovery, especially if it goes on for an extended period of time.
The Pink Cloud: It’s Not All Bad
Although there are some negative aspects of the pink cloud in recovery, it’s not all bad. For many people, the feelings of joy, hope, and peace they experience while in the pink cloud can serve as motivation to continue in their recovery journey. Those positive feelings can also be a nice relief from the strain of active addiction.
Although the pink cloud does have the potential to affect someone negatively, a person can also choose to acknowledge that those euphoric feelings are not a realistic representation of what sober life will be like. Rather, they are a part of the recovery process and should not keep them from seeking outside help and support in recovery.
The Key to Lasting Recovery
After detox or rehab, it’s easy to be overtaken by the pink cloud, but the key to lasting recovery is ongoing support and participation in treatment. No matter how motivated you are, you will still need help to stay sober. These components of continued care are fundamental to a life of lasting sobriety:
Ongoing involvement in a treatment program such as IOP, sober living, and/or recovery support group meetings
A healthy living environment
Peer support (such as is provided with our MAP Support Program)