Early recovery can be a treacherous time and requires constant vigilance and mindfulness to stay on track while battling intense cravings and feelings of loss. But for some, this time is marked by feelings of euphoria and palpable excitement. Recovery feels like the best thing in the world, and it seems like there’s nothing that can make you want to use again, ever.
In Alcoholics Anonymous, this is known as pink cloud syndrome, and while nobody wants to burst anyone’s bubble, it’s important to understand that these feelings of confidence—sometimes overconfidence—can lead to being blindsided by a relapse.
What is Pink Cloud Syndrome
Pink cloud syndrome is a term that refers to the happiness and joy that one’s sobriety journey is bringing to their life. While the journey is often a rocky one, people will overlook those circumstances and understand that the real world is more than the life of addiction they once led.
The Dangers of Pink Cloud Syndrome
It feels wonderful to finally be free of an addiction that led to so many problems in your life, but maintaining full engagement in your recovery plan is crucial for success, even if you don’t feel it’s necessary.
Attending daily 12-step meetings is essential for staying grounded and connected with your recovery, and closely monitoring thoughts, attitudes and emotions is critical for recognizing the early warning signs of relapse. Putting in the hard work of taking stock, working through underlying issues and beginning to clean up the messes you left in your wake are all par for the recovery course.
But if you’re living on a pink cloud, you may feel that you don’t really need all these bells and whistles in order to stay sober. You may even think you can continue hanging out with using friends without incident, because you know in your heart that you’ll never use again.
Overconfidence dramatically increases your risk of relapse. You’re not focused on developing strategies to prevent it, and you aren’t working through the critical issues that led to the addiction. You aren’t being honest with yourself.
When the Pink Cloud Dissipates
The fact is, the pink cloud doesn’t last forever. When you come to and find that you still have the same old problems—financial troubles, intense cravings, lack of direction—and the difficulty of recovery looms large and foreboding, it can throw you into a period of depression, during which your risk of relapse will be even higher.
At that point, you may already be well on your way to using again, even if you don’t recognize the signs at first.
Surviving the Pink Cloud
You can enjoy the pink cloud while still acknowledging that recovery won’t always be this easy. Staying on track with your recovery plan is the most important way to prevent the pink cloud from leading to relapse. Recovery is a holistic process of change from the inside out, and actively working from day one on identifying and addressing the wide variety of issues underlying addiction is absolutely essential for achieving ongoing, long-term sobriety.
These are some of the things you can do to help ensure ongoing sobriety even as you embrace your new sense of self-confidence and well-being:
Attend your support group meetings every day, even if you don’t think you need support.
Make healthy lifestyle choices, such as getting enough sleep, eating a healthy diet and exercising each day. The stronger and healthier you are physically, the better equipped you’ll be to survive the end of the pink cloud syndrome.
Draw on support. Keep friends, family and supportive peers close, and trust that they have your best interests at heart.
Be honest with yourself and with others.
Ask for help with issues that come up, even if they’re seemingly unrelated to the addiction.
Don’t ignore problems, or they can get out of hand and lead to high levels of stress, which is another trigger for relapse.