Navigating Early Sobriety on a Pink Cloud

Pink Cloud

If you’ve been fortunate enough to catch a pink cloud, ride it as long as you can. It’s a phenomenon that happens to some people in early recovery that makes them feel exhilarated, euphoric, and full of optimism about their sobriety. 

There’s no real scientific study on the pink cloud, so we don’t know why it happens or just how long it lasts. The evidence of its existence is based on the experiences of people who have been through it or have witnessed it happening to others in recovery.

Not everyone experiences the pink cloud in recovery. But for those who do, it can be a positive jumping-off point into sobriety. However,  those who have experienced the pink cloud know it can be deflating when it vanishes — and it usually does. 

Where does the term come from?

The term likely originated in the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous to describe a hopeful sober newcomer who may feel they “got this” after just a few days clean or dry. They are on the pink cloud and feeling great, which can be a good thing in early recovery. 

However, someone on a pink cloud may become overconfident because they are so new to sobriety. A newly sober person may be encouraged to enjoy their pink cloud while it lasts, but also manage their expectations. They have to be very wary of the pink cloud’s inevitable dissipation. 

What does the pink cloud feel like?

In the early days of my recovery, I caught a pink cloud as soon as the worst of my withdrawal symptoms subsided. In hindsight, it’s no wonder because my withdrawal from alcohol was pretty brutal. I believe my pink cloud formed out of the very hard landing I experienced once I put the drink down.  After days of withdrawing, my sleep naturally started to level out and I was feeling far less mental and physical anguish. And all of a sudden, I found myself very eager and excited to be sober.

I was so jacked to be sober and little did I know, I was on a pink cloud. I felt great and I wondered why I hadn’t gotten sober sooner. I had a wildly euphoric optimism for my newly forged recovery. I wrote down a lengthy list of all the sober celebrities I looked up to that I was going to be in the same class with (Bradley Cooper and Will Arnett!).

I started listening to recovery podcasts with zeal and vigor over how I was going to have the mysterious freedom I heard sobriety promised. I was thinking of all the incredible things I was going to do as a sober person — I was going to start running again, I was going to quit smoking, I was going to lose weight, I was going to be my best self and look good and eat better and and and…

Does the pink cloud go away?

For me? Yes — and with crushing magnitude. My over-elated enthusiasm lasted only a few days before I was left feeling bummed out that I couldn’t go to the bar and drink with my friends. Suddenly, recovery wasn’t so much fun anymore. 

The immensity of having to go through the rest of my life without a drink felt like an unfair punishment. I felt doomed and decimated and definitely not in the mood to do this recovery thing anymore. I didn’t know how Bradley Cooper and Will Arnett did it, and I didn’t know if I could do it. I definitely wasn’t quitting smoking or starting to run now, either. 

Many people can feel depressed and disappointed when their pink cloud eventually blows away — I certainly did. However, early recovery is an absolute rollercoaster of drastic emotional ups and downs. So while one day I may have felt full of hope and inspiration, the next I could be absolutely deflated. That’s why it’s so important to keep an eye on your expectations of what recovery is actually like if you catch a pink cloud. Recovery is hard work, which is why relapse rates are so high. But it is not impossible. 

What’s next? 

Despite the vanishing of my pink cloud, I continued to approach my sobriety one day at a time. Soon enough, my positive and enthusiastic spirit came back. However, it took getting through the challenging early days of recovery for me to get there. 

The advice I would give is that if you are on a pink cloud, try to thoroughly enjoy it while you are on the ride. Journal about what you are looking forward to in your recovery and use the energetic motivation you have to build on the time you have sober. Throw yourself into new hobbies, or things of interest you may have lost before you got sober. Perhaps start an exercise regimen so that when the pink cloud vanishes, you have a new routine. When we stop using, we give up one thing for everything. Therefore, capitalize on this time to explore what you think you’d like to do now that you have everything back.

So beware of the pink cloud and know it expires. Be cognizant that recovery can be difficult at times and some days are better than others— particularly early on. But just as the pink cloud vanishes, so do the early doom and gloom days of recovery. And as you gain more sober time, you will look back at your early recovery, with all its highs and lows, with great fondness. 

We love hearing from you at The Wagon. Did you get a pink cloud? How long did it last and how did you feel when it left?


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