Pink Cloud Syndrome: The Dangerous Euphoria Following Recovery

Pink Cloud Syndrome

The pink cloud is a phenomenon that’s common among people in their early recovery (observed for the first time in AA members), which has helped many continue through the skies of sobriety.

The pink cloud can carry an addict on the wings of joy. Many users admit that this feeling of excitement has given them hope after the pain and the struggles their addiction has brought into their lives. But it can also cause dangerous overconfidence that can lead to a relapse.

What is the Pink Cloud Syndrome?

In addiction recovery, the “pink cloud” is a term used to describe a high-on-life feeling in one’s journey to recovery. The Pink Cloud Syndrome is a curious but often short-lived phenomenon. Many people, after detoxing, feel too good about their recovery, as they’re finally able to see the real world behind a curtain of pills, drinks, and needles.

How dangerous is the Pink Cloud Syndrome for addiction recovery?

In recovery, pink clouds are common phenomena, but can provide unrealistic expectations. While the feelings of happiness may bring hope to people, they have a dark side, in that the feelings can be self-effected mechanisms that stop people from seeing their real problems. Those delusions can bring over-confidence and disappointment, which can lead back to relapse.

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The Pink Cloud Of Happiness

The pink cloud in addiction is a term used to describe a curious but short-lived phenomenon in one’s recovery odyssey. It means to be high on life. Many people after detox feel too good about their recovery as they’re finally able to see the real world.

While there’s nothing wrong with feeling optimistic about your future, let’s explore the pros and cons that the pink cloud can pour on us.

The Dark Side Of The Pink Clouds

Although being positive is a good feeling during recovery, the Pink Cloud Syndrome in addiction is used mainly as a negative term. Many people who are trying to stay clean are exposed to various extremes. Life is never fine for an addicted individual: it fluctuates between drama and euphoria. Being on a pink cloud can sometimes mean a detachment from reality: people become preoccupied with the good feelings and forget about the journey in front of them. The pink cloud can also be seen as a kind of natural high and defense mechanism, which helps people ignore all the familial, financial and legal issues that they have to deal with.

An addict’s life is a rollercoaster of emotions, and emotions are what trigger an addiction in the first place. Like any roller coaster, it’s not possible to stay joyful and delusional all the time: eventually, you’ll come closer to the ground, and that can bring too much disappointment to handle.

The real world and all the problems that you are still facing can hit you, and that can be the first step to relapse.

Many specialists, such as Professor Andrea King, director of the Clinical Addictions Research Laboratory at the University of Chicago, believe that the Pink Cloud Syndrome is risky because being irrational is a major obstacle to the addiction recovery.

Getting Off Of The Pink Clouds

The pink cloud phenomenon is an individual process, and its duration can vary between individuals. Some people that have lost everything can be happy for years during recovery; others can come back to reality soon after detox.

The real problem is not how long people will be flying on their pink clouds, but what this syndrome can cause. For many people, the unrealistic feeling of happiness holds a state that can be defined as a loss of memory regarding their pain and the devastating results their addiction has had.

Many people in early recovery think that they’ll never face any pain and that they are cured. Addicts can feel too confident and may start to believe that the key to recovery is only in their hands: they forget that recovery is a long process, and not an on-off switch.

As health specialists and users say, the key to sobriety is true surrender. You should admit that you’ve reached the bottom, reduce your ego, and recognize that you need help on a daily basis.

Pink Cloud Syndrome: The Dangerous Euphoria Following Recovery

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Comments 11

  • This is why AA is failing

    • On the contrary, AA is doing great. I do understand that some meetings have gotten away from the big book but there is a serious effort happening in AA to return primarily to the big book way of teaching. In Connecticut, AA is very strong and has helped hundreds of thousands get and stay sober.

  • AA is not failing by any stretch. Just because it didn’t work for some, doesn’t make it a failure. It has by far the highest success rate of any program out there. AA is truly a miracle. I’ve tried many therapists and programs and AA is the only one that worked for me and millions of others.

    • Do you have a reference for the success rate claim? Remember *rate* means a ratio, not total number. Since AA is by far the largest program I would believe it has the largest total number of success, but success *rate* means the number of people who have achieved sobriety out of the number of people who tried. One million out of one hundred million would be one percent, even a million is a large number the rate isn’t great. You might have a smaller number – suppose a thousand, but if that is out of a total of say four thousand as an example, that’s 25% compared to the 1%. Without a formal study there is no real statistics to claim, and I have read articles that say it has a poor success rate with a reference to back it up, though I admit I didn’t look it up.

      It also doesn’t follow that you throw in therapists with AA, that’s apples and oranges. A therapist is one person, it does not involve a fellowship. If another program doesn’t have a fellowship it is also very different, even if both are programs. Also, what if someone in AA sees a therapist at the same time? Someone can claim one or the other is the cause of success, but a simple straight forward explanation might be that both are necessary for that person, and they each make up part of their personal program of recovery. Of course a therapist isn’t even necessarily focusing on the addiction either, but may just be addressing a persons overall psychological health, which is another reason why it’s apples and oranges.

      The truth is most people are not even aware of fellowships that are not based on the 12 Steps so there is nothing to compare. Even if they are aware of it, are they going to try it? They may attend one or two meetings out of curiosity sake, but that is hardly any basis to judge a program.

      And why does someone who say AA is failing need to be responded to with a comparison and claim that “we are the best”? I seriously doubt anyone really knows all the programs out there to be able to make an all inclusive statement, and if AA worked for them they have no reason to try anything after that point, even if others they don’t know about may also work. Instead of talking statistics we might look at WHY it didn’t work for some, whether we’re talking about AA or anything else. I think the truth is there may be no interest in those people, the quote about easier and softer way may be read but it doesn’t involve any understanding, or just the simplistic view of strict/vs. lax. But group identity and allegiance also doesn’t mean someone is working a program well.

      But if we’re interested in how it works then we might understand why it doesn’t work for people and then actually help them, instead of assuming they’re not trying hard enough or some similar generic assumption. Of course that would probably involve a deeper understanding of human nature rather than just an identification similar to team sports.

      • The whole anonymity thing makes “success rates” impossible to measure. Plus, “success” is personally defined. Is purely not drinking “success?” Or is it true sobriety. And how is that defined for different people? AA is neither “failing” nor “succeeding” because those are subjective value judgements. I think fellowships help. But you’re right… AA is one of many. I will say, however, that it’s remarkable to me that AA has remained self-sustaining for this many years. That says something positive about it (in my opinion).

    • Wrong, AA has only a 5-10% success rate, close to the statistic of those who just “wake up” the next day and decide to quit drinking. Addiction is NOT a choice, as AA teaches. It also teaches that there is something inherently wrong with an individual who has substance use disorder (not called an “alcoholic” as they do in AA). Check out more research on what happens to your brain when you become addicted. Your mid brain (the primitive, automatic part of the brain) takes over so your prefrontal cortex no longer has the ability to guide you to make choices. Check out HBO’s YouTube video “The Science of Relapse”.

  • I’m struggling with someone else’s Pink Cloud. He’s just out of detox and after having destroyed (I accept my half of the blame) our relationship, he’s saying all the right things and wants me to get back on his merry go round and woo me and win me back. I still love him but I don’t want to get screwed over for the third time. Does anyone have insight regarding how long it will take for a realistic view of the damage to our relationship? I told him I don’t want to try again but he is determined to win me back. I want to cut off all contact even though I still am in love with him, I want to heal myself and leave this behind. Any advice?

    • if he is truly in AA and has admitts and believes he is an an alcoholic, then he needs to not be in this toxic destructive relationship. He would step away so as not to cause you any more pain and take care of his sobriety. This is the Third time??? You know the answer just by your question. If I was a gambler I’d bet that family and friends have told you to stay away from this, what sounds to be a very co-dependent and destructive relationship. Good luck. I really hope you make the right voice.

    • I suggest looking at why you are still around for a third time with this guy. He is an addict, we love to have our lives filled with enablers and he wants you back as a safety net to him, basically dettting himself up (unconsciously). If he is doing to intentionally, actively trying to manipulate you into coming back then he could be a narcissist. Either way the issue is why are you are still close enough to be contacted by him. If it’s “over” let it be over, you said “the third time”…this means there is a pattern of behavior and that is a huge red flag.
      My guess is your relate to the patterns and characteristics of a codependency…that is something you can fix, yourself!

    • The addict must do it for himself. If he / she has to get rid of relationships to maintain sobriety, that’s what must be done. It’s not a tool in order to manipulate others. He / she hasn’t seen that your relationship is toxic or at least a problem, and if they were really trying to work the program, the relationship would have been red-flagged and dealt with.

  • Big Book pg. 25
    When, therefore, we were approached by those in whom the problem had been solved, there was nothing left for us but to pick up the simple kit of spiritual tools laid at our feet.
    We have found much of heaven and we been rocketed into a fourth dimension of existence of which we had not even dreamed.
    The great fact is just this, and nothing less. That we have had deep and effective spiritual experiences which have revolutionized our whole attitude toward life, toward our fellows and towards God’s universe.
    The central fact of our lives today is the absolute certainty that our Creator has entered into our hearts and lives in a way which is indeed miraculous.
    He has commenced to accomplish those things for us which we could never do by ourselves.

    Working the 12 Steps is WORK! …”pink cloud” term is simply another word for DENIAL. Rigorous Honesty cannot coexist with nor will anyone have sustainable sobriety. In my opinion.

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