You can see it up there, can’t you? Right beside the sun, next to the unicorn. It’s hard to miss—a fluffy mass resplendent in its coral color. It has a built-in espresso maker and from its center, rainbows shoot high in the sky and stain the horizon with joy and high-fives.
If you’ve been around recovery, even for a short time, you will have heard of the infamous “pink cloud”. The pink cloud refers to that heightened state of well-being and hope in sobriety. It’s the feeling that no matter what happens, everything is going to be super groovy. It’s an almost over-the-top, optimistic outlook that makes a person feel bullet-proof to life’s challenges. It’s euphoria squared to the max.
The pink cloud usually hits a newcomer very early on (if at all—not everyone goes through this phase). Just when the person is starting to feel the positive benefits of not drinking or drugging, there is a palpable sense of an exceptionally bright future. This might be in complete contrast to the pink clouder’s current state of affairs. Those are often broken and messy.
I remember bouncing on that first cloud early in my sobriety. It felt like all my worries were slipping off of me like an old skin. I wanted to shout my newfound joy and freedom from the rooftops. It felt like nothing could topple me from my shiny, pink Cadillac. Eat your heart out, Mary Tyler Moore—I was the one who was going to make it after all.
Many old-timers are quick to point out the pitfalls of being on a pink cloud. They will try to bring the high-flying cloud dweller down for a gentle landing. They will tsk-tsk and warn about “staying up there for too long”. Why would someone want to take a person who is probably feeling great for the first time in years, and attempt to stifle their enthusiasm? Why would someone attempt to discourage this new rapture, this place where one is finally starting to feel and experience life chemical-free?
False Sense of Security
The worry is based in the concern that a pink cloud can create a false sense of security. The cloud dweller will sometimes feel like all their problems are behind them. That there is no need to do any more work, staying clean and sober. There is a danger of becoming complacent. Some folks will start to ignore the pressing and persistent issues in their lives which require action and attention.
Unchecked for a while, it can become another form of numbing.
There is a middle ground of course. I didn’t crash and burn when I got bumped off my pink cloud. There was no relapse or other disastrous consequences waiting for me once I disembarked from the carnival ride. I found that once the initial buzz of not having a buzz wore off, I still needed to keep at things. I had meetings to attend, steps to work, and countless talks with other men in recovery. There was a family to provide for. Rent to pay. I had to stitch together my shredded life and make amends. And not from high atop the mountain summits. I had to put my feet on the ground and take action.
Okay – I Needed Those Moments…
In looking back, I can also see that I needed those magnanimous pink cloud moments. Those high-flying bursts of sustained elation. I needed the emotional boost to help me feel and see what it was like to be out of the grime and filth of my own mind. The pink cloud served me by giving me hope.
Fear not the cloud! I urge anyone who is experiencing it to enjoy. But, also understand that it’s a vehicle for Grace. It’s a window of opportunity for action, not for settling down. Let us not discourage those who are flitting about on their pink cloud, finding that foray into early recovery. It’s a joy to feel unbound by the prisons of our minds. It’s a feeling that I still capture now and then, and it’s a blast of fresh air. I also know that like anything else, it is fleeting. So I take it in, and when it passes, I also take whatever comes forth. It’s the dance of acceptance.
The greatest part of the journey comes when the steady currents of contentment takes you along the stream. As you look up in the sky and remember those first mad, crazy, soul-lifting days in the clouds. And feeling like you’ve made it…