For many, getting clean and sober brings a euphoria. The phase of early recovery, when someone experiences extreme happiness and excitement, is called the pink cloud. Some people call it the “honeymoon” phase. But it’s also a dangerous phase.
Urban Dictionary (urbandictionary.com) defines the pink cloud this way: “12-Step recovery jargon referring to someone new who talks about how great life is, now that they’re sober. Usually meaning that the person is out of touch with reality.”
The danger of the pink cloud is becoming complacent about working your program. This often leads to relapse. Research shows relapse is common in early recovery. The pink cloud contributes to it.
Recovery – A Roller-Coaster of Emotions
In early recovery, a roller-coaster of emotions is common. Things may seem pleasant, but eventually people come down from the pink cloud. This can lead to disappointment. People lose faith in the tools of recovery. Some even begin to question if recovery is worth it.
While there has been a lot written about the pink cloud, there is less written about overcoming it. That is what we will focus on. But let’s be honest: There are no easy solutions. There is no room for complacency.
Develop a Long-Term Recovery Plan
The best way to stay clean and sober during the pink cloud phase is to use a long-term recovery plan. While in drug or alcohol rehab, you learn to create a recovery plan. Most plans include some key items:
• A regular schedule. This keeps you busy. Boredom is a real threat to sobriety.
• An exercise plan. Exercise releases positive endorphins or positive energy.
• Therapy and/or after care. Both are great ways to help you continue to work on emotional issues, stress and anxiety.
• Ongoing support. Twelve-Step meetings provide opportunities to meet other people experiencing the same struggles. Members support each other and build positive sober relationships.
• Don’t forget to play! Make a list of things you enjoyed doing when you were a kid. Go over the list and highlight any that still seem appealing. Once you have a good list, act on it!
Be Intentional About Who You Spend Your Time With
It’s best to avoid all your old haunts. These can be triggers that increase the intensity of cravings. The same goes for friends who are still drinking and using. The pink cloud makes you think there’s no danger. You’re recovered. It’s a lie.
Instead, work on rebuilding relationships with healthy family and friends. You left a wake of damaged relationships behind while you were using. One of the best ways to improve relationships is showing you are committed to your recovery.
It’s important not to isolate yourself. It may be tempting to withdraw. After all, lots of people are mad at you! Instead, practice sharing your thoughts and feelings. This paves the way for others to provide support for your recovery.
Joining a 12-Step group provides a sense of belonging. Many 12-Step programs encourage service to the group and others. This is a vehicle to help your own recovery. It’s a healthy way to help yourself while doing something for someone else.
Keep it Simple
You may feel like you’ve experienced a miracle! Instead, focus on non-miracles. Keep a routine and live a healthy lifestyle. Continue the healthy diet you began in rehab. Make sure you’re getting enough sleep, and be sure to exercise.
For someone experiencing the pink cloud, there is a danger of overcommitting. By overcommitting, you lessen the chance of being able to keep your word. Instead, practice saying no.
Replace Old Habits
Practice being grateful. A positive outlook makes coming down from the pink cloud easier. Keep a gratitude journal or get yourself a gratitude app for your phone. There are many great apps, some of which encourage posting photos as well as making lists.
Start doing things for yourself. People struggling with drug and alcohol addiction are very good at getting others to do things for them. Before asking someone to do something for you, consider taking the initiative.
Try things that have never included drugs or alcohol. It can take up two months to create a habit, so stick with it.
The Pink Cloud isn’t the Problem
Ultimately, the problem isn’t with the pink cloud. The danger is complacency. Steps 10-12 of Alcoholics Anonymous include lots of verbs: “continued,” “sought,” “tried,” and “practice.” They sound like work! The words indicate it’s important to keep working a program even if you don’t think you need to. However, sticking with this work offers a reward for the effort—a renewal of your enthusiasm for life and a rekindling of your spirit.