If you had been struggling with the pain of addiction but managed to break free of this, you are going to have many reasons to feel good about yourself. It is a major accomplishment to escape alcoholism or drug addiction, and you deserve to bask in the glory. You now have a chance to build a much better future, and it can feel as if you’ve escaped a death sentence. It would be incredibly unfair to suggest that you should not enjoy the new feelings of hope, optimism, and relief, but some experts would suggest that you do need to be careful not to develop pink cloud syndrome.
Pink cloud syndrome refers to a type of extreme persistent happiness that does not reflect the reality of your situation. It could be described as a type of delusional happiness, and it may look to others as if you are caught up in fantasy. The term ‘pink cloud’ tends to be mostly used by members of Alcoholics Anonymous in a negative way to describe new members who are unrealistically happy and may be at risk of relapse because of it.
The accusation that individuals are being too happy can sound bizarre – how can somebody ever be too happy? There is a temptation to consider those making this type of accusation as killjoys or just jealous. This may be true in some cases, but the reality is that there are dangers associated with feeling too happy in early recovery. It is important to not exaggerate these dangers, but it would also be unhelpful to pretend these do not exist.
One of the biggest dangers around pink cloud syndrome is that this period of extreme happiness always ends, and it can come as a huge shock to people when it does. Normal life can feel like a real drag after a person has experienced such extremes of happiness. The individual can react to this change in their fortunes by deciding that something has gone terribly wrong. People can also feel so disappointed at the end of a period of pink cloud that they use it as a justification for relapse.
Another potential danger with pink cloud syndrome is that it tends to encourage complacency. When things are going too well, there can be a temptation for the individual to take his or her foot off the pedal. Staying sober is now easy, so there does not seem to be much need to put any effort into it. Individuals could even start to wonder if they haven’t been making too much of a big deal of their drinking or drug use. It is common for complacency to arise before a relapse, so taking things for granted in early recovery is usually a mistake.
The term ‘pink cloud’ does seem to be overused a lot. People who use it often mean well, but just because a person is overjoyed at their new life do not mean that he or she is doing anything wrong; in fact, it is more likely to be a sign that things are going right. Extremes of happiness are only a problem when it has an obvious detrimental impact on the person’s behaviour. In most cases, simply knowing about the dangers of pink cloud syndrome is enough to keep individuals safe. It would be unreasonable to suggest that people should feel less happy to protect their recovery – this would definitely be giving them the wrong impression about sobriety and what it involves.