You know that feeling you get when your team—a team you are on or a team you root for—wins a big game? Or the feeling you get when you get a big promotion at work or an A on a difficult test at school? Or the feeling you get when someone you love agrees to be your spouse? In all of those situations and others like them, the excitement and happiness we feel is undeniable. It fills us up and makes us feel like nothing will ever go wrong.
Pure Pink Cloud Joy
That feeling of joy—of euphoria—is one of the most satisfying and pleasant emotions in life. The moments when we experience it are often some of our fondest memories. And when we do experience it, we try to make it last as long as possible—even as we know it can’t last forever.
When it comes to people in recovery from a substance use disorder, many describe just such a feeling in the early days of their newly established sobriety. The phenomenon is known as the “pink cloud.”
And as the brilliant singer and songwriter Joni Mitchell taught us 50 years ago, it is important to look at clouds from both sides now.
The Upside of the Pink Cloud
It is unquestionably true that winning back your sobriety is an accomplishment worth celebrating. And so a feeling of euphoria in the days after successfully completing treatment is wholly understandable. Those who experience the pink cloud enjoy what might be thought of as a natural high. For a person in recovery, achieving that feeling without needing drugs or alcohol is truly thrilling. It can also be an extremely powerful confidence booster for someone who is newly sober. After all, if you feel this good without drugs or alcohol, odds are you will never be tempted to relapse, right?
The Downside of the Pink Cloud
Just like the clouds in the sky, the pink cloud eventually dissipates or moves out of sight. And when that happens, it might be replaced by feelings of depression, anxiety, or even desperation. Cravings may suddenly seem irresistible, and the desire to reclaim that joyful feeling may be overpowering. So overpowering, in fact, that you find yourself strongly tempted to try to recreate it with drugs or alcohol—the very substances you have worked so hard to give up. All at once, the joyful feeling that made it seem like your sobriety would never again be in question is causing problems in its absence. And those problems may come rolling in like a thunderstorm.
Keeping Things in Perspective
What can you do to moderate the impact—both the highs and the lows—of the pink cloud? The answer, as with so many things in life, is all about balance and perspective.
If you have a pink cloud experience, by all means enjoy it. But also remind yourself that this is almost certainly a temporary feeling. Don’t let it give you a sense of overconfidence about your recovery—and don’t let it cause you to put off important work you need to do to shore up your sobriety. The pink cloud is no reason to put off mending relationships, building healthy routines around sleep and exercise and mindfulness, finding ways to serve the community, or attending 12-Step or other recovery meetings. All of those things will continue to serve you well long after the pink cloud has blown through your sky.
During the period it defines your personal weather, the pink cloud can make you feel as though you are invincible. That can be an empowering feeling, but it is up to you to remember that you are not, in fact, invincible—and to do the things that will provide much needed support when the pink cloud glides past and things get tough.
When that cloud is gone, it is equally important to remind yourself that the feelings that replace it are also temporary. You may be feeling very sad, or you might be experiencing cravings that seem unmanageable. But the sadness is not permanent and the cravings can, in fact, be managed. If you have been putting in the work to strengthen the foundation of your sobriety, you can weather the challenge.
Keep an Eye on the Weather – For Yourself & Others
As part of the recovery community, you will likely witness others going through their pink cloud moment. When you do, it may offer you an opportunity to be of service to them if and when their personal weather changes. If you can do so without putting your own sobriety at risk, you can offer your support to a person coming down off the natural high to help make sure they don’t find themselves replacing it with an artificial one.
Being there for one another is an important piece of the recovery journey. If you can monitor the weather for others and they can keep an eye out for shifting conditions in your life, you can better come together to find a temperate zone between the highs and lows of the pink cloud.
The Forecast at Wooded Glen Is Clear & Bright
For those struggling with drugs or alcohol, the weather never seems to change. The storm of problems—trouble at work and home, financial difficulties, serious health conditions, and more—just does not dissipate. But there is sunny weather on the other side of a substance use disorder, and we can help you get to a place where you can bask in the sunlight of sobriety. At Wooded Glen Recovery Center, we focus on compassionate, evidence-based care that is personalized to address your specific needs, including any co-existing mental health disorders that may be contributing to your substance use disorder. If you are seeking shelter from your personal storm clouds, you can find it right here.