Imagine you have just accomplished a significant goal—something you have been working toward for a long time.
Maybe you got promoted. Maybe your significant other accepted your marriage proposal. Maybe you published a novel or took a dream vacation or shared the joy of one of your children being accepted by their first-choice college.
Take a moment and think about how you would (or did!) feel in that moment. It seems safe to say that you felt happy, right?
But “happy” might not be a strong enough word here. After all, we are talking about a milestone moment. You wouldn’t be merely happy. You’d be joyful or ecstatic or euphoric! And for a little while, it might seem like that feeling will never end. What could possibly bring you down after you have achieved something so important?
Of course, eventually, the feeling of euphoria does, in fact, dissipate. Not because what you accomplished is any less important or impressive. It is simply the case that no emotion—no matter its strength or its cause—stays in place forever.
And that is an important thing to remember in the early days of your recovery journey—especially if you experience a phenomenon known as the “Pink Cloud Syndrome.”
What is the Pink Cloud Syndrome?
The moniker “pink cloud” has been given to the feelings of euphoria some people experience in the early days after they have reclaimed their sobriety.
During the Pink Cloud Syndrome Phase, individuals may feel:
- Euphoria: A strong sense of happiness, elation, and positivity, sometimes to an extreme degree.
- Optimism: A heightened sense of hope for the future and a belief that everything will work out well.
- Energy: Increased energy, motivation, and enthusiasm for life.
- Confidence: Enhanced self-esteem and confidence in their ability to maintain sobriety.
- Clear Thinking: Improved mental clarity and cognitive functioning, as the effects of substance use begin to wear off.
- Social Engagement: A desire to connect with others, rebuild relationships, and engage in social activities.
- Spirituality: A sense of spiritual awakening or connection, which might involve exploring faith or inner growth
Feeling accomplished over achieving sobriety is only natural. After all, getting sober is every bit as important and impressive as any of the milestones we mentioned above. When you get sober, you get your life back, and it can feel as though anything is possible. That is absolutely worth celebrating. Still, the pink cloud can be problematic.
Potential Pink Cloud Syndrome Problems
There are a number of important reasons to remind yourself that the pink cloud is almost certainly a temporary experience. The potential downsides of the experience include:
- The eventual end of the feelings of euphoria can feel like a crisis. In fact, you could find yourself desperate to reclaim those feelings—and that desperation could lead to a relapse if you turn to drugs or alcohol in an effort to feel better.
- Even before the pink cloud dissipates, it can put you in danger of making bad choices. The euphoric sensations can feel like invincibility. You may delay establishing routines and healthy habits to support your sobriety because it feels like you won’t need to go to the trouble.
- On the flip side of the coin, you may also delay breaking some old habits and routines because it feels as though it does not matter whether you hang out with your old drinking buddies or go places where you know drugs are available. As long as you are riding this natural high, it may well seem as though you will never be tempted to use substances again. But that simply isn’t true.
- There may be other situations that require your immediate attention that you put off while under the influence of the pink cloud. Maybe you have relationships to repair—at home, in your social circle, at work. Maybe your substance use disorder led to financial issues that can’t be left unattended any longer. Maybe you need to delete some numbers from your phone. The pink cloud can cause delays that can turn into problems in a hurry.
It Is Okay to Enjoy the Pink Cloud Syndrome; Just Remember the Weather Will Change
We want to be clear here: It is wonderful that you have reclaimed your sobriety, and a feeling of joy or euphoria is wholly appropriate. You can enjoy those wonderful feelings while still keeping in mind that they will not last forever. If you remember that, you are far more likely to do the sorts of things you need to do to ensure that your recovery survives the moment when your internal weather changes and you don’t feel so euphoric anymore.
Those things include attending regular 12-Step (or other recovery program) meetings, eating a healthy diet, getting enough rest, and getting plenty of exercise. They include taking steps to end toxic relationships and repairing relationships that have been broken. And they include developing routines—like practicing mindfulness, writing in a journal, or taking up an engaging hobby—that support your sobriety. That way, when the pink cloud moves out of your personal sky, your sobriety won’t go with it.
Let Us Help You Get Out of the Storm of a Substance Use Disorder
A substance use disorder can upend your life like a natural disaster. But you can find shelter from the storm at Farley Center, located in Williamsburg, Virginia. We offer personalized substance use disorder treatment grounded in empathy, experience, and expertise. We would be delighted to help you find the sunnier days that come with sobriety.