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Medically Reviewed By:
Dr. Patricia Sullivan MD MPH on 8/12/2021
For most people, addiction and recovery are unfamiliar territory. Sometimes the concepts and language can be hard to grasp. The “pink cloud” in recovery refers to a period when a person feels so confident in their progress, they find themselves on a mental and emotional cloud. It can be a great feeling, but it can have its pitfalls.
“Pink cloud syndrome”, as it’s sometimes called, typically happens in early recovery. It’s accompanied by confidence, and even euphoria that you’ve “beaten” addiction. It can last up to several months. However, the danger lies in the fact that many people stop doing daily work on their recovery. This can open them up to potential relapse when suddenly faced with an obstacle or triggering event.
If you have questions about getting sober and finding the right treatment program for you or someone you love, please reach out to us at (888) 906-0952 . You might even feel like you’re “riding the pink cloud” right now, and we can provide information on staying consistent and diligent in your recovery.
- Recognizing The “Pink Cloud” Phase
- How the Pink Cloud Can Affect Recovery
- Using the Pink Cloud As a Recovery Tool
- Avoiding Relapses During the Pink Cloud Phase
- When the Pink Cloud is Over and Recovery Seems Difficult
- Owning Your Recovery and Moving Forward
Recognizing the Pink Cloud Phase
Many recovering addicts experience the pink cloud phase of recovery during their inpatient treatment. It can begin during a treatment program and extend past your discharge date.
The dangerous aspects come into play when leaving therapy while still on the pink cloud. When you’re on the cloud you feel like you’ve conquered addiction and you feel so good, you don’t see the need for further treatment or upkeep. You might feel confident that you’re one of the lucky ones to have been “cured” so quickly.
You get home and start returning to a pattern of everyday living. You feel great about your newfound sobriety. The confidence you’re feeling might convince you to stop your current treatment plans or relax your daily methods of staying sober.
Hopefully, you can recognize that you’re in the midst of a pink cloud and take advantage of the positive feelings. But keep in mind, recovery can be like a roller coaster. There are valleys and peaks, and you should be prepared for them.
For some, pink cloud syndrome is easily identified by an almost overwhelming sense of peace. Others may notice they don’t remember ever feeling this good without using. For some, it can be more subtle and even unnoticeable.
There are a few key signs you may be experiencing the pink cloud:
- You’re feeling overly energetic and euphoric.
- Your outlook on addiction and life is wildly optimistic.
- You firmly believe you’ve beaten addiction, and quickly.
- You don’t foresee anything getting in the way of your sobriety.
- You are not concerned about a relapse.
This is not to disparage anyone feeling hopeful or positive in terms of their recovery. But being over-confident about your progress can be just as potentially dangerous as having no faith in it.
How the Pink Cloud Can Affect Recovery
Feeling the pink cloud in recovery can impact you in many ways. When you’re first seeking treatment, there is a lot of stress in your life. However, when you feel the effect of the pink cloud, recovery takes a turn. You begin to see how your life will come together when you’re substance-free. You in the midst of positive things happening to you and around you.
Unfortunately, even though this is a good point to be at, the sensation will typically wear off. That’s when the reality of recovery starts to set in. Recovery is something that takes ongoing, daily effort. As you find your new daily routine, life will begin to feel ordinary again.
Acknowledging the pink cloud syndrome is key. If you are experiencing elevated mood levels, you can still practice stepping back as a healthy way to stay balanced. Ask yourself why you’re feeling good, acknowledge it, but more importantly, figure out what you can do for your recovery to keep this feeling going.
Developing new routines is part of any successful recovery. A fresh set of habits and a revamped agenda can be inspiring. But after a time, even healthy routines can begin to feel stagnant. For example, 12-step meetings might seem thrilling at first, but they can quickly become routine. But the constructive things you do consistently (whether they’re “fun” or not) are what keep you sober.
Returning to daily responsibilities at home, work, or school can also contribute to coming down from the mental buzz of an early recovery. Life doesn’t stop when you’re in rehab, and going back to your old environment and daily rituals might come as a bit of a downer at times.
But it’s important to remember that while achieving sobriety isn’t easy, the longer you work at it, the more natural it becomes. And the more that recovery plays a role in improving your life, the more you will enjoy it and be able to accept the down times.
Using the Pink Cloud As a Recovery Tool
While there are pros and cons to the pink cloud effect, you can certainly make the most out of it, even using it as a tool to ensure your recovery continues.
First, it’s perfectly normal to feel excited about successfully staying sober. But addiction–and life in general–is full of challenges. Understanding your own emotions and thought processes are instrumental in ensuring you can continue to live substance-free.
While you’re in the natural high of the pink cloud, it’s an excellent time to implement small changes and healthy routines. Often, the small changes and healthy habits you develop during the pink cloud phase will help power you through the down times.
This period of time is a good space to think about how you’ll handle rough days in the future. Anyone who’s struggled with an addiction can tell you there will be temptations to use, and they might be unavoidable.
Remember, mistakes happen. Relapses happen. They are an unfortunate reality, but they are not the end of your journey. You haven’t failed if you struggle or if you relapse, it is simply part of the process of recovery. The next thing to do is move forward, either by reaching out for help or returning to the tools you used to get sober in the first place.
While you’re in this phase, it is an excellent time to write out an action plan for when you feel a relapse coming on. Consider what you’ll do if someone offers you a hit. Decide who you’re going to call if you’re overwhelmed by the urge to use. Think about who you’re going to call for help if you do relapse. How will you say no if someone is trying to convince you to use again?
Consider writing a note to your future self. Think about how you’ll respond to a bad day at work. Or after receiving devastating news. What would you want to tell yourself when a temptation to use convinces you sobriety isn’t worth all the work? Now is the time to convince your future self sobriety is worth everything, even on the worst days.
Avoiding Relapse During the Pink Cloud Phase
Now is not the time to get complacent with where you’re at in your journey to sobriety. Addiction is a sneaky disease. It often hides in a dark corner waiting for the right moment. And when that moment arrives, it will do it’s best to convince you it’s time to use again.
It’s essential not to get sidetracked by temptations or allow yourself to get “lulled” into complacency in your recovery. There are many things you can do while experiencing pink cloud syndrome to help you avoid relapse.
Some people find significant help from 12-step programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous. These groups are a great complement to rehab. Getting into the habit of attending these meetings early on will help keep you sober as the new feelings of sobriety wear off. Plus, many people in the group will help guide as you transition into a sober lifestyle.
It’s important to take care of yourself physically as well. Even though you feel great, remember it’s essential to stick to a regular sleep schedule. Find a form of exercise that doesn’t feel like a chore and do it regularly.
Take time to find or get into a new hobby. Reach out to friends and family; having a sense of community is vital to your rehab success. It’s important to find things you like to do, not just something you’re supposed to do.
When you come down from your pink cloud, you’re at an increased risk of relapse. You might not know this, but many relapses happen in the first 90 days of sobriety. But you don’t have to fall into that category if you know what to watch out for and how to keep yourself protected.
When the Pink Cloud Ends
When the pink cloud feeling ends, it can be difficult to find motivation. A heaviness may set in where you realize life won’t always be perfect and wonderful. Life can abruptly start to feel mundane and, at times, overwhelming.
When you encounter these feelings, it’s important to lean on your support system. Now is an excellent time to add in an extra appointment with your therapist, or seek out a new 12-step meeting to try. Look for sobriety groups who organize social events online.
Additionally, engage with others who’ve been through this phase and ask your questions. They might off you good tips for getting through this phase. Sometimes, just knowing you aren’t alone is enough. Sometimes, knowing this is a familiar feeling with others will keep you going.
It’s critical to keep perspective during this time. While adjusting to life after the pink cloud can be similar to withdrawal, it’s not a forever feeling.
Remember, recovery takes time. Recovery from addiction is not over once the withdrawal is over. Recovery is not over when the euphoria fades. Over time, things will start to reach a balance. You’ll begin to feel long-lasting joy again and your recovery process can play a big role in your happiness.
Owning Your Recovery and Moving Forward
There’s nothing wrong with enjoying your journey into sobriety or having a confident outlook. Take time to celebrate your achievements. You are doing a lot of hard work, and you will have a fuller life as a reward for your sobriety.
But remember, the pink cloud is a phase that can pass without warning. Ideally, you will use your time during that experience to put together a solid plan of action for when things get tough, and you feel like using again.
There is no definitive timeline for a pink cloud in recovery. It can last for days or weeks or even months. That’s why it’s crucial to always have a backup plan for when events in life take a turn, or don’t happen the way you expect them to.
If you are trying to stay sober and maybe struggling coming down from the pink cloud, please give one of of our trained professionals a call at (888)906-0952. We can help you understand the many ways you can protect your sobriety and continue to live a healthy, substance-free lifestyle.