Pink clouds sound like a fairly majestic and surreal phenomenon, like a thing you might associate with unicorns or angels. But in the recovery community, the term “pink cloud” has a specific and potentially sinister meaning.
Pink Cloud Syndrome
Pink Cloud Syndrome is a phrase that developed within the recovery community to describe someone who is new to recovery (often just out of withdrawal) and riding a wave of bliss. The person feels such confidence and excitement about their recovery that it borders on unrealistic. More experienced people in recovery recognize that this “honeymoon stage” will inevitably come to a crashing halt.
According to an article on Healthline.com, common indicators of PCS include:
- Euphoria and extreme happiness
- Positive outlook about the prospects for staying sober
- Fixation on the benefits of sobriety
- Increased emotional awareness
- Naivete about what it will take to stay in recovery
How Pink Clouds Can Be Problematic for Recovery
The indicators above sound pretty wonderful, but Pink Cloud Syndrome can be a sign that people have become overly confident in their ability to remain sober. As a result of becoming too certain of their sobriety, a person may then make decisions that place themselves at heightened risk for relapse.
When Pink Clouds are Beneficial
The euphoria of the pink cloud is often a response to the removal of the “mental noise” associated with addiction and to the hope that ensues in feeling sobriety for the first time. As long as the person can keep a realistic view of recovery, the pink cloud time could strengthen a person’s commitment to sobriety.
Limitations of the PCS “Diagnosis”
Because there has been relatively little scientific study done on Pink Cloud Syndrome, the evidence for it is based on the experiences of individuals in recovery and of those who have witnessed others in recovery. Every case is different, and results may vary. Still, it can be helpful for a recovery mentor to encourage those who are new to sobriety to keep realistic expectations for what their long-term recovery will look and feel like.
At the same time, even if we think someone is experiencing Pink Cloud Syndrome, that does not mean we need to smother their joy or make them afraid of what might happen later in recovery. Each person’s recovery journey is unique, and the best way to support your own or another’s journey is to offer encouragement and to help each other accept and deal with any negative feelings that arise.
People in recovery experience ups and downs. When the pink cloud wears off, it’s usually because the person begins to experience the normal range of human emotions. In active addiction, people tend to use substances to “numb and homogenize” their emotions. In recovery, they need to learn how to process those feelings and address them without substances.
Healthline suggests harnessing the power of the Pink Cloud phase to use in later recovery. For example, journaling about the amazing highs of sobriety can give a person in recovery something inspiring to read when they go through challenging times later. Their journals can remind them why they began this journey and what they want for their life.
In addition, Healthcare suggests building in “reality checks” with people who can observe and be honest with you about how closely your perception seems to be aligning with reality. “Reality-checkers” can include a sponsor, a therapist, a loved one, a treatment counselor, or another trusted person.
We Can Help
At Safe Harbor Recovery Center, we can help you or your loved one at each stage of the recovery journey, through all of the ups and downs. Together, we can build a plan that will help you to soberly navigate through whatever life sends your way.