The pink cloud syndrome is a term used for the honeymoon phase of sobriety when everything is good and positive. It’s the initial high of those early days when you feel euphoric about your new lease on life.
If that isn’t your experience, that’s perfectly fine. Not everyone experiences the pink cloud. But if it is you, here’s what you should know.
What are common signs of pink cloud syndrome?
If you’re riding the pink cloud of sobriety right now, you might feel like you’re in an adrenaline rush.
This happens for many people after the initial withdrawal symptoms have passed. Now you feel good. Like really, really good.
You feel on top of the world, full of energy, and approach each day with a peppy, “I can do anything” attitude.
Additional signs of pink clouding include:
- A sense of euphoria
- A false sense of security in one’s sobriety
- An overly optimistic outlook on life
- Impulsive and risky behavior
- Feelings of elation
- Feelings of joy
- Extremes of happiness and a mixture of highs
Sounds amazing, right? (Well, minus the impulsivity.)
It can be!
But it’s worth noting that the pink cloud is not without its risks.
When does the pink cloud start?
The pink cloud can happen anywhere from a couple of days to weeks after quitting alcohol. There’s no predictability to it.
For example, I’ve had times when I tried to quit, and I felt the pink cloud immediately. The first week was a piece of cake, and by the second week, I was overconfident, which led to me drinking again.
Other times I had to white knuckle my way through the first few weeks before I experienced the pink cloud high.
Interestingly enough, when I finally did quit, I didn’t experience it all.
How long does it last?
Everyone’s experience is different.
Some people pink cloud for a few weeks, while others might journey along in a gentle bliss for several months.
However, the common thread is that the pink cloud does not last forever.
Eventually, you return to a baseline “normalcy.”
Pros and Cons of the Pink Cloud in Sobriety
Although the pink cloud can be a powerful, positive experience, it is not without its downsides.
Let’s dive into the pros and cons of the pink cloud.
Sobriety can be extremely stressful. Not only are you wrestling with your desire to drink, but you also have to navigate your social life as a sober person.
You might feel disconnected from friends and family members who continue to drink.
The pink cloud provides a much-needed break from the difficult work of sobriety.
It’s a time when you feel positive and optimistic about the future – something not everyone experiences when they quit drinking.
Sometimes enthusiasm and euphoria are great motivators to keep going.
Why not ride that wave?
When you’re wrapped up in euphoric feelings, it can be easy to convince yourself that the hard part has passed – that your sobriety is a sure thing, or worse, not entirely necessary.
Overconfidence is a sobriety killer. It makes people believe they are “all better” and can drink again, this time moderately.
The sad thing is, most people can’t.
They embrace the pink cloud and believe they’ve solved their drinking problem. Then, they start back drinking, and before they know it, they are right back where they started.
I know because I have ruined at least three attempts to quit drinking this exact way.
I would feel great and decide to dip my toe back in those waters. It would start out mostly fine. I could drink at a party and then not have anything again for a week or two.
That part never lasted.
Eventually, I ended up drinking heavily again.
The concentration and willpower I had to exert to limit my drinking exhausted me, and I would give up and go back to daily drinking.
The pink cloud tricks you into believing your work is done.
One of the biggest cons, or dangers, of the pink cloud is that it gives you a false sense that your work is done.
This is when people stop showing up to group sessions or therapy appointments.
They might start backsliding in their daily routines. Perhaps they stop working on their programs.
All of these behaviors put you at risk for relapse.
Even though you feel great, you still have to learn how to tackle life’s inevitable challenges as a sober person.
There will come a time when something happens that makes you desperate for an escape, like getting drunk.
Sometimes people get carried away in the pink cloud and forget to work on themselves. When something bad happens, they are ill-equipped to handle it.
Pink Cloud Anxiety
Sometimes the pink cloud is a double-edged sword.
The euphoric high feels too good to be true (because it is), and you wind up feeling anxious about when it will end and how you’ll deal with things after it does.
That is why it’s important to recognize the signs of pink clouding and continue to work with your sobriety support network or therapist throughout the process, even if you feel like you can take on the world.
You don’t want to be unprepared for the inevitable come-down from the pink cloud.
Access should not be a barrier to help.
How to Navigate the Pink Cloud Phase of Sobriety
First, it is perfectly fine to enjoy the ride while it lasts.
There are so many aspects of sobriety that are physically and emotionally grueling.
There’s nothing wrong with indulging in feelings of euphoria when they come.
But you don’t want to develop an unrealistic expectation of what sobriety is like.
At some point, sobriety and life get hard. Alcohol dependence is sneaky.
Plenty of people have strung together months of happy sobriety only to be thrown off by an intense desire to drink.
The risk of relapse is ever-present.
We don’t have to be afraid of it, but we should be prepared.
Interested in learning more about the pink cloud in sobriety? Check out this video:
Take advantage of the positive feelings.
When you’re feeling good and secure, it’s a great time to make a clear-headed plan for managing the inevitable challenges that will arise on your recovery journey.
It’s also the perfect time to establish healthy habits for your daily life.
Use the good vibes to do the hard work of building a healthy lifestyle.
Learn strategies for coping with stress that don’t involve trying to emotionally escape your life – things we all failed to do when we were drinking.
If you play it right, the pink cloud of sobriety can be an important tool for building the foundation on which your sober life is built.
Pink Cloud FAQs
Where did the term pink cloud come from?
The pink cloud comes from Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). It is also referred to as “two-stepping” and is mentioned on page 113 of the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions.
The two-step delusion refers to people trapped by the pink cloud and failing to do the rest of the steps.
Once the pink cloud inevitably wears off, they become overwhelmed by the perceived dullness of everything and slip back into old ways, which can lead to relapse.
The AA tradition views the pink cloud as something people should be wary of and actively work against because it impedes our ability to grow and improve.
How do you get past the pink cloud?
To survive the pink cloud of sobriety without becoming complacent, continue working on yourself and your recovery.
Even if you don’t feel like you need to attend group sessions or counseling, stick to your recovery routine. This allows you to continue growing and developing the skills you’ll need to navigate challenges as a sober person.
Additionally, stick to your exercise and nutrition regimen. Healthy habits are often the cornerstone of strong sobriety.
The pink cloud can trick us into believing we don’t have to do the extra stuff to be happy and solid in our sobriety. But we do! So stick to your recovery plan, even if you feel like a million bucks.