As a newcomer in the AA program, my progress and demeanour often seem subject to the opinions of many. While I enjoy and value learning from others who have more experience in the program, sometimes the commentary is a bit patronizing.
I’m happy to be free of the slavery that constituted my drinking career and it shows. After meetings and in the company of my fellows I am always smiling; in fact, it seems I’m smiling a lot lately because I am filled with the joy that sober living can bring.
Apparently, according to some of my more seasoned peers, I am on a pink cloud. The first time I heard this I thought it was cute, the notion that because I am grateful to be sober and am enthusiastic about the program, I am somehow misguided to the actual realities of my new life.
After hearing it repeatedly, though, I wasn’t quite so amused. The implication is that I’m wearing rose-coloured glasses and can’t yet see the forest for the trees. It’s true that I’m early enough in and I have no crystal ball to tell me what’s coming down the road, but is there some issue with being consistently cheerful and optimistic?
The journey thus far has had its peaks and valleys. I’m working my way back into life after being a space cadet on and off for years. There is a sharp learning curve for my mind and sprit as I begin to live life on real terms. I can no longer hide behind the bottle when faced with feelings, decisions or simply being an actual human, which are all things I used to do as inebriated as possible.
I do get that my life, or my personality for that matter, isn’t going to suddenly be shaped into perfection because of my getting sober. I do however know that I have a tool kit for going forward that includes my higher power, my sponsor and my fellows, so that I will thrive and live abundantly. This makes me smile, it makes me pleasant, it relieves the fear and worry I have been harbouring inside since I was a child. I am joyous, so I’m not sure why I occasionally feel that I need to apologize for not being an emotional mess! If being on a pink cloud means that I am learning to live contentedly in sobriety, then I’ll take it.
One puzzling encounter that left me somewhat annoyed came at the ORC (Ontario Regional Conference), my first big AA convention. The whole weekend was dominated by a sense of gregarious elation, mixing in and out of the giant crowds all gathered together for the same purpose. The keynote speaker and the dinner-dance that followed stands out as one of my best evenings this year.
The next day I was literally bounding around, bolstered by the jubilant energy of the whole event. Granted, I was extra smiley that day, but it was diminished by a slight from a person who said, “Aha. You’re on a pink cloud. Just wait for what comes next,” followed by a knowing smirk. He had the same patronizing tenor I had heard before from others, with just a dash of bitter pessimism added in as though he were waiting for my bubble to burst. I think he was just an unhappy person in spite of his program, but I walked away from our interaction feeling a bit more guarded in letting the joy out. This guy, like a few others, labours under the illusion that newcomers know nothing. I’m well aware that every weekend can’t be like my first ORC, but there’s no harm in enjoying the fruits of sobriety when I can.
Listening to those who have many years in the program is very enlightening. They are a wonderful resource for a newcomer learning to live with physical, mental, emotional and spiritual sobriety. In turn, happy newcomers like myself can help remind everyone about the benefits of being enthusiastic about their programs.
I hope the guy who had the irksome pink cloud comment finds joy, contentment and peace in his sobriety and that is one of the beauties of the program. In the past, I would have slammed him and put him on my virtual dislike list. Now, I simply hope that he finds a path toward peace and serenity.
I feel just as strongly about AA as I did on my first day of discovering that there was a solution and I hope I carry that throughout my journey. Because pink clouds have silver linings worth holding on to.
Many addicts and alcoholics are known to live in high extremes when they are using. This tendency often remains in progression after they become clean or sober. Thus, many people in early recovery go through a phase of extra-heightened happiness and excitement that often even creates euphoria about their newfound life in recovery. This phase in recovery is often referred to as the Pink Cloud.
The Pink Cloud often affects new people in recovery who are experiencing excessively optimistic outlook on their life and recovery itself. It almost seems like they are untouchable by anything negative and they seem to be wearing a pair of “rose colored” glasses. Yet we all know that early recovery is quite difficult and it often throws many challenges our way as well as a rollercoaster of emotions that at times may be hard to manage.
There is much to learn about yourself once you decide to stop drinking and the good news is that most of it is positive. However, for most of us life spent in addiction means that we may not have a place to live, or a job, or any real means to provide for ourselves once we enter recovery. Therefore, this dramatic contrast of feeling that everything is just “perfect” may be dangerous at this time. These feelings may manifest themselves as coping mechanism to protect the newcomer from the often-harsh reality of early recovery.
The Pink Cloud feeling is not an undesirable experience itself; on the contrary, it is quite pleasurable. For many addicts/alcoholics, it is such a great relief to be finally free of the destructive cycle of addiction, that nothing seems better at this time. In addition, after years of numbness, the emotions become alive once again, and life can feel wonderful. These are all emotions that the individual in recovery deserves to feel and experience for as long as possible.
However, the concern is that it can become out of hand – people can become too high, and lose sight of what is important. The person can feel so confident that they become complacent about their recovery. There is also the risk that once the emotions stabilize, feelings of disappointment may be overpowering.
While being clean and sober is an exceptional accomplishment, it is important to stay on track with the recovery plan. People who experience the Pink Cloud period feel temporarily great, but there are dangers to this overwhelming euphoria, so it may be especially important to stay connected with your support network, continue working through the recovery process, and be aware of these three points:
Pink Cloud feelings will not last forever and a sudden return to the reality might be quite devastating.
Overconfidence may cause complacency about recovery, which then can lead to the risk of relapse.
Ignoring life’s problems during this time will not make them go away, they will only surface later and seem bigger than before.
For those of us who have experienced recovery from addiction and have not experienced the Pink Cloud, it does not mean that we are doing recovery wrong, or that we are not exceptionally excited about our new life. It just means that our journey is a bit different. Therefore, when we see a newcomer in the Pink Cloud stage, we can be supportive and encouraging of their progress and offer hope and inspiration. At the same time, we may be in a good place to help the newcomer to beware of the Pink Cloud euphoria, which may be short-lived and painful once it ends. It is important to encourage the newly sober person to stay on track and work the program of recovery.
The ultimate problem with Pink Cloud is not the exceptional high that a recovering addicts or alcoholics experiences early in the process, but it is the risk and fallout of not staying on track with the process to maintain sobriety. The great delights in early recovery are there to be enjoyed and cherished as much as possible, as long as we also keep our focus on the recovery process itself.
The staff at Renascent is passionate about helping people with substance addictions so they can reach their full recovery – with compassion, respect, empathy and understanding. Our staff includes our counsellors, all of whom have lived experience of addiction and recovery.