Recovering from an addiction is hard work, especially in the early stages. For some, early recovery is a daily struggle, and their attention is focused on engaging with their recovery plan and using the skills and strategies learned in treatment to cope with cravings and triggers.
For others, however, early recovery is tinged with feelings of excitement and euphoria at the prospect of being free of an addiction. These people may have an excessively positive outlook, and they may even seem cocky with confidence in their ability to abstain from drugs or alcohol. This is the pink cloud syndrome, and despite its pretty name, it can quickly lead to relapse.
Why Pink Cloud Syndrome is Dangerous
There’s nothing wrong with feeling happy and excited that you’re free of drugs or alcohol and on the path to long-term recovery. After feeling numb for so long, it’s wonderful to feel so alive again.
But in many cases, an excessively positive outlook leads to overconfidence, and you may lose sight of the crucial day-to-day self-monitoring that’s so important for successful recovery. You may skip 12-step meetings or counseling sessions because you feel like you really don’t need support—you’ve got this sobriety thing in the bag. You may begin to feel so confident in your sobriety that you start to think you can still hang out with using friends or go to the bar without having to worry about wanting a drink.
According to an article published in the Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine, overconfidence is a major relapse trigger, especially if it leads to skipped meetings and a lack of self-care. These behaviors are highly detrimental to your recovery, and they can quickly get out of hand and lead to using again.
Falling Off the Pink Cloud
If you’re on a pink cloud, it’s important to keep one foot planted firmly in reality and stay fully engaged with your recovery plan despite your confidence in your ability to stay sober. The pink cloud syndrome doesn’t last forever, and when you suddenly return to reality, you may experience some depression—this is normal—but the accompanying feelings of hopelessness and helplessness can quickly trigger a relapse.
On the pink cloud, it’s easy to lose sight of the problems and issues that are still alive and well in your life, such as being behind on rent or bills, suffering from a mental illness or having interpersonal problems with friends or family members.
Ignoring these issues won’t make them go away, and they may even worsen after a period of neglect. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, recovery is a holistic process, and identifying and working through all of the problems and issues in your life from day one is essential to successful recovery.
Tips for Surviving Pink Cloud Syndrome
By all means, enjoy your feelings of good health and happiness. But be ever aware that these feelings have led many people back to using, and even if you feel like you’re at a low risk for relapse, it’s easy to be blindsided. Follow these tips to ensure you stay on track with recovery while you’re on the cloud:
- Attend your 12-step meeting every day, even if you feel confident that you don’t need that much support.
- Ask for help with any problems or issues in your life, even if they aren’t directly related to your addiction.
- If you went through treatment, fully engage in your aftercare plan.
- Know the three stages of relapse—emotional, mental and physical—and stay mindful of your thoughts, actions and behaviors so that you can see the signs and get help.
- Make healthy lifestyle choices, including eating nutritious food, getting enough sleep and exercising every day. These can help you maintain equilibrium once the pink cloud dissipates.
The pink cloud won’t last forever, but if you stay engaged in your aftercare plan and live mindfully every day, the reality of recovery won’t seem so harsh when you finally come back to earth.