You just completed substance use disorder (SUD) treatment, and you are fresh on the recovery path. This is a time of excitement and optimism, and you may feel on top of the world. You might have difficulty even imagining using substances again. While it is great to be excited about your recovery, it is essential to remember that recovery is not always smooth and linear. Sometimes it can be a rocky path that is more of a spiral, where you must face the same triggers and issues more than once. Even when this cotton candy pink cloud has lifted, there is still a joy in recovery, even when challenges arise.
Are You Floating on the Pink Cloud of Recovery?
If the scenario above sounds familiar, you may be experiencing the pink cloud of recovery. The pink cloud is the time early in recovery when withdrawal symptoms have subsided or been managed with medication. Perhaps you may be feeling the joy of reconnecting with yourself, family, and friends without the haze of substances for the first time in a long while. Self-esteem is at an all-time high, or you feel better physically than you have in the past. Tell-tale signs that you may be in the pink cloud:
- Higher energy levels
- Increased engagement in recovery-related activities
- Extremely high levels of optimism
- More motivation to do daily, mundane tasks
- Elevated mood
- Confidence in the ability to maintain sobriety
- Overlooking the challenges of recovery
Pink Cloud Benefits
These warm, fuzzy feelings, improved mood, and increased energy can benefit early recovery. They can give hope for a sober future. You can also look back on this feeling on days when recovery is hard. Remembering that excitement can help you remember why you started and serve as a reminder that these difficult moments will pass.
The increased energy can inspire you to begin exercising, and physical activity is an excellent tool to help you stay sober. Exercise also elevates mood, which is a perfect way to maintain that great mood even after the pink cloud dissipates.
You may also have the energy and motivation to reach out and mend relationships damaged by substance use.
All of this sounds great, so you may think how there could be a downside to any of this?
The Dangers of Floating in the Pink Cloud
The pink cloud and rose-colored glasses can wreak havoc because they lead you to have unrealistic expectations about your recovery. When this phase comes to an end, it can leave you frustrated and disappointed.
Overconfidence is another danger of floating in that pink cloud. You have completed detox, and you are feeling great. While in the pink cloud, you may think you can manage your recovery without further treatment. However, for most people, detox is only the beginning. Detox is rarely effective in helping patients achieve long-term change and abstinence. For many, more time in treatment at lower levels of care like residential facilities, a partial hospitalization program (PHP), or an intensive outpatient program (IOP) is needed to ensure long-term sobriety.
When you take the time to continue treatment through the continuum of care, you learn additional coping skills to manage cravings, triggers, and post-acute withdrawal. Some common symptoms of post-acute withdrawal are:
- Sleep disturbance
- Difficulty concentrating
- Lowered enthusiasm
Post-acute withdrawal can occur long after the initial detox and come and go. Unlike acute withdrawal, which is primarily physical, post-acute withdrawal is predominantly psychological. Another frustrating aspect of post-acute withdrawal is that it comes and goes. If the pink cloud has you blind to the possibility of post-acute withdrawal, you may not be prepared.
Managing Recovery After the Pink Cloud
The high of the pink cloud does not necessarily have to end with an extremely low if you prepare well and strike a healthy balance. You know the pink cloud phase is short-lived, so use that extra motivation and energy you have during this phase to prepare for its end:
- Have your next level of care already scheduled. It can be PHP, IOP, or outpatient therapy, but it is best to be prepared since some facilities have waiting lists for programs or a shortage of outpatient therapists.
- Set reasonable goals. It is tempting to want to make significant changes during the pink cloud phase, but it is better to develop small, achievable goals. This will keep you focused on your recovery without setting yourself up for failure with unattainable goals.
- If you are working on a 12-step program, find a sponsor who understands and can support you and help you work through the feelings you have when the pink cloud fades.
A Life in Recovery Is Worth the Effort
Even after the pink cloud is gone and you face the challenges of daily life like work stress and traffic, recovery is worth all of the effort. It is worth it to experience the joy of being free from substances. While this joy may not feel like the extreme high of the pink cloud, it is a sustainable joy. Even when times get hard, you know that you will find that joy again.
The pink cloud of recovery can feel warm, fuzzy, and tingly. You have quit using substances, and now you are high on life. It is wonderful to feel joyful and excited about your recovery, but these euphoric feelings will end. It is important to remember that completing detox is only the beginning of recovery and not the end. Recovery is a life-long process and not always an easy one. At Sober Life, we have various flexible treatment options that allow you to continue treatment while slowly easing back into your everyday life. Our highly-trained, expert staff will be there to help you navigate through the period when the pink cloud disappears and help you find joy in a balanced, healthy, sober life. Call (619) 542-9542 to learn more about how Sober Life’s treatment programs and how they can fit into your life.