If you’ve been in recovery for any length of time, you may have heard about pink cloud syndrome. This syndrome usually occurs during the early days of sobriety, and it’s characterized by intense feelings of elation and happiness. Put simply, people in the pink cloud are high on life and ecstatic at the prospect of a happy, healthy future that’s free of substance abuse.
How can you tell if you’re in the pink cloud yourself? If you are, is there a downside to all these good feelings? Our team at Casa Nuevo Vida invites you to learn more about pink cloud syndrome as we may be able to answer some of your pressing questions about sobriety and the recovery process.
What Is Pink Clouding?
The pink cloud syndrome is the phase right after overcoming addiction. It’s known to make recovering/recovered addicts overconfident. Feelings of being happy and ignorant leave many in the perfect position to relapse. The pink cloud dissipates after a while for everyone.
That is to say, it’s the cupcake stage of someone’s relationship with sobriety. Everything seems sweet and amazing! Just like romantic relationships, addiction recovery takes work. It’s easy in the beginning because it’s new.
However, the same problems that lead many to drugs and alcohol are still there sans addiction. For instance, health issues will still be there. Sometimes, they might go away going through dual diagnosis treatment. Yet, physical and mental issues return often unprompted.
Ultimately, there are many reasons why someone might slip back into bad habits:
- A transition from living in a residential treatment center to living at home or into a sober living facility
- The reemergence of any mental health disorders (ie: depression or anxiety)
- The reemergence of chronic pain or physical disorders
- New health problems
- They still keep in contact with bad influences
- They go back to an abusive relationship
- A loved one passes away
- They return to a situation that stresses them out (ie: living situation or work)
All the problems are still there. More importantly, new ones will arise. When someone is overconfident they don’t prepare for the worst. Pink clouding keeps them thinking that relapse couldn’t happen to them. Meanwhile, they are likely to relapse without healthy support and professional aftercare. Addiction recovery is a lifelong process with no timeline.
What Causes Pink Clouding?
It’s not difficult to see why many people experience such a powerful sense of euphoria when they finally enter recovery. Breaking free from the damaging cycle of addiction is a huge relief, and your new life in recovery holds so much promise and potential. After years of numbing your feelings by drinking or using, it’s normal for optimism to abound and positive emotions to run high.
Pink cloud syndrome may sound like a positive phenomenon, but it carries more risks than benefits. Feeling positive and optimistic about your life in recovery isn’t a bad thing, but the pink cloud can set you up for failure if it gets out of hand. Confidence can turn into complacency—a sense that nothing can threaten your newfound recovery.
Spending too much time in the pink cloud can also keep you from addressing real-life personal, financial, and legal issues, and pink cloud syndrome can leave you vulnerable to relapse when the good feelings finally end.
What Are the Stages of Pink Clouding?
The pink cloud syndrome may last a couple of days. It could last a couple of years. There is no set time for the early phase of addiction recovery. Not every person with a substance use disorder has a relapse, but a large majority do.
Up to 60% of recovering addicts relapse, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). A portion of this is due to the pink cloud syndrome. This doesn’t mean that the treatment has failed. It’s the opposite. The results are so positive that a recovering addict may think they don’t need to follow up with aftercare. Recognizing the stages of pink cloud syndrome can prevent a relapse.
Below are the general stages. Recovering addicts may skip a stage or recede a few times. All the steps may go out of order, save the first step. It always begins on a dangerously high note. Nevertheless, they will always end up at the last stage if they don’t seek professional help.
Stages of the Pink Cloud Syndrome
- Firstly, it starts with euphoria and self-confidence: Neurotransmitters are replenished within the brain. This creates a wash of happiness. Aftercare is still a part of their daily life.
- Self-confidence turns into arrogance and ignorance: At this stage, they become overconfident in their ability to stay sober. They may still keep up some forms of self-care and aftercare, but begin to abandon them. They might skip medication or skip follow-up appointments.
- Then, they abandon all forms of aftercare and self-care: People with substance abuse disorders at this point feel they are completely better. Destructive habits start up again unconsciously. This could be a bad diet or hanging out with bad influences. Reality creeps forward.
- After that, their drive and mental health slip: It’s a slow process, and won’t happen in one day. It will typically happen over a time where its onset isn’t apparent. They may think about drugs and alcohol casually. Mental illnesses like depression and anxiety start to set in.
- Their morale lessens to the point they use again: The thought process is that since they know what it’s like to be addicted, they won’t again. They decide that they were strong enough to overcome addiction. One little drink or dose won’t hurt them “new and improved” them.
- Casual use of drugs and/or alcohol becomes a pattern: The first try becomes one of many. They start to hide their substance use from their loved ones. Once a week becomes several.
- Finally, they are fully addicted: They can’t figure out how they got here. Moreover, they can’t believe that they are dependent on drugs and alcohol again. It seems like they were sober and happy not too long ago. But, just when was that? People in this stage need help quickly to prevent a morbid fate.
Are You in the Pink Cloud?
Life in early recovery offers a priceless fresh start, but it requires some hard work. Addiction may have wreaked havoc on many aspects of your life—you may not have a job or even a place to live, and your relationships may have suffered some real damage.
If you feel like life is “perfect” despite these challenges, your euphoria may be serving as a coping mechanism to shield you from the reality of your situation. Ignoring these pressing issues because you’re in the pink cloud isn’t going to make them go away. Turning a blind eye to life’s problems can make them even worse when they resurface later.
Signs and Symptoms of Pink Clouding
There is a high that comes from the success of addiction recovery. For a recovering addict, it’s an important accomplishment that many can’t make. For instance, 2,200 Americans die every year from alcohol poisoning. In 2018, about 70,000 Americans died from a drug overdose.
Recovering (or recovered) addicts that have pink cloud syndrome may think they have beat those statistics. The dangers are even worse for those who recovered quicker than expected. Underestimating how long it takes to recover from substance use disorder can lead them to be another number in a sad statistic.
Some signs and symptoms can be because of the pink cloud syndrome:
- Risky behavior
- Extreme self-confidence about overcoming addiction
- An overly optimistic outlook on life
- A calm state of mind (without any aftercare or self-help)
- Withdrawal from outpatient programs
- Making up excuses to avoid aftercare or self-help
It’s normal to feel happy about a huge accomplishment. It’s also easy to forget that it happened because of hard work and dedication. People that have any of these signs or symptoms should check in with themselves. Are they taking measures to perpetuate happiness and sobriety?
Joy isn’t a perpetual feeling. Everyone must take measures to make sure they don’t spiral into the deep. Those who are familiar with substance abuse need to take extra steps to ensure sobriety.
How to Navigate Pink Clouding
There is no way to make the pink cloud stay afloat forever. Life sets in. This doesn’t mean that life will be miserable once the pink cloud goes away. It’s the opposite! To clarify, life is a balance of positive and negative emotions. When the pink cloud syndrome is no more, recovering addicts need to be ready for it.
Most importantly, those who have had a substance use disorder need to know what is pink clouding as a concept. That’s the first step to stop spiraling when it’s over. They should also be aware that a mental health disorder may pop up as a result of withdrawal. People who had a substance disorder might feel worse than when they started after the high of addiction recovery
A plan devised from a recovery treatment center is the best way to overcome addiction for good. Medical professionals are the most knowledgeable about addiction recovery. Yet, there are also other ways to navigate through the wave of euphoria to permanent addiction recovery.
Have SMART Goals
SMART is an acronym for specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound. It’s a popular tool known to help people with their goals. Those who are in the early stages of recovery should create SMART goals for their mental and physical health. For example, they could commit to exercise therapy. From there, they would decide where and when they want to do it every week. A plan with SMART goals is one that will succeed.
Journaling is a simple and powerful tool to aid mental health after pink clouding. It lets people write down their feelings instead of internalizing them. Additionally, it allows them to keep track of patterns. How long have they been feeling sad? How many days in a row have they been content? Questions like these can be answered by keeping track of them in a journal.
When people exercise a rush of serotonin and dopamine is released. Cortisol, the stress hormone depletes as well. Physical activity is a positive way to keep withdrawal symptoms at bay. This also goes for any medical issues in general. Those who are familiar with addiction should choose a physical activity that appeals to them. That could be football or boxing. As long as they can stick with it, it’s appropriate.
A creative outlet is a positive way to let loose negative emotions. Turning to artistic expression instead of drugs and alcohol can maintain sobriety. Of course, it’s easy to say that. What may help is having an art station. It takes the work out of getting supplies out when a person is upset. Having a designated area with supplies set out can let someone turn to art as therapy with no fuss.
Weekly Talk Therapy
Talk therapy may be a part of a recovering addict’s aftercare. If not, it’s beneficial to see a therapist every week. There are two popular talk therapies. They are dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) and cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). Each is popular because of the research behind them and how they are effective. A therapist who is a specialist in either can craft a plan to make sure their patient won’t spiral into a pattern of negative behavior.
Getting Out of the Cloud
Floating along in the pink cloud may feel good while you’re in the thick of it, but it can leave you in a dangerous spot when the euphoria finally fades. This is when many people in recovery start to drink or use again in an effort to recapture those feelings of elation. The pink cloud can also turn confidence into overconfidence, luring you into risky situations that needlessly threaten your sobriety.
Don’t let pink cloud syndrome set you up for a relapse—it’s alright to enjoy the good feelings, as long as you don’t expect them to last forever. Your recovery journey will most likely have some bumps in the road along the way, but a realistic attitude toward the process will keep you grounded and help you avoid a relapse.
Contact us today to learn more about our sober living services, and how we can help you avoid pink clouding syndrome.