What is the pink cloud? When I began recovery and would share a significant change or a new revelation about life, people would often say, “He is on the pink cloud,” or “Enjoy that pink cloud as long as you can.”
To be perfectly blunt, that would irritate me beyond belief. Being newly sober I had no idea what the pink cloud was or what they meant by it. All I knew is I was experiencing something real and significant in life, and they weren’t taking it seriously. To them, my head was in the clouds.
But as I spent more time in the recovery community, I came to understand that people weren’t making fun of me. They were celebrating with me, remembering their own “pink cloud” experiences.
The “pink cloud,” I learned, is the phrase we in recovery use to describe the feeling of elation and immense gratitude we feel when we realize that we have avoided self-destruction and found a new path. For example, I remember being seven days sober and sitting in a meeting thinking, “I can’t believe I’m not hungover right now.” That was huge. After years of daily drinking, I was not only not hung over, but I had also not spent money I did not have the night before, done things that I might not remember, or put myself or anyone else in harm’s way by driving home from a bar drunk. The feeling of elation was impalpable, to say the least. The real sense of gratitude and revelation was like being on top of a…hmmm…pink cloud? Yes, a pink cloud.
However, an emotional high can be just as dangerous as a chemically-induced high. The “pink cloud” feelings come often during early sobriety, but they wear off after time. When they no longer feel the initial happiness at being sober, people might get depressed or restless, feelings that can lead to relapse.
When my pink cloud experiences stopped, I wondered if I had I done something wrong that I did not feel that way anymore. But I have learned in recovery that I cannot base my life on or have reactions to my emotions. People everyday experience emotional highs; they get a promotion, they get engaged, they get to go on a dream vacation, a child is born. The difference between them and me is that when I come down off the emotional plateau, my disease wants me to get back to the high using chemicals. But with practice and commitment, I’ve learned to stay steady.
Almost three years in recovery, I can still sometimes get on a pink cloud.
Now, I recognize and appreciate the pink cloud for what it is, some event or revelation makes me feel elated. That is a beautiful thing, and I am grateful for it. I have had some major milestones in recovery that merit elation. Today I am present in my life for my family and friends. I am a functional member of society. I have hope for a bright and beautiful future. Having a sense of balance in my life is key to peace and serenity, not the moment of elation.
I am not irritated anymore at the “He is on a pink cloud” statements. I embrace my “pink cloud” experiences now. Today I can just appreciate things as they are and recognize that with God’s help, all is okay.