Understanding The Pink Cloud and Addiction to Alcohol

By Kayla Loibl | Last Edited: November 22, 2020 | 4 Sources

Negative Impact the Pink Cloud Can Have

Early recovery involving the pink cloud and addiction can be a confusing time for alcoholics. It is filled with ups and downs, challenges and successes. The Pink Cloud is an experience in early recovery that can lead to an  alcohol relapse for some. Pink cloud syndrome refers to an early stage of addiction recovery that have to do with feelings of elation and euphoria. When an alcoholic in this phase, they feel excited and confident about recovery.

This emancipation from the debilitating effects of alcohol is probably what is emphasized in the spiritual overtones of Alcoholics Anonymous, which sees sobriety as a gift to be thankful for each day.

Individuals who are new to recovery are at a higher risk of struggling with the negative consequences from the Pink Cloud. This is because they have not been in recovery before, and are likely unaware of the various challenges that can come up.

In early recovery, it is vital that a person develop a strong support system that would be able to recognize concerning behaviors, such as the Pink Cloud, and address it in a way that the recovering alcoholic is receptive to.

The Pink Cloud is a phrase that was coined within the Alcoholics Anonymous community after noticing a common experience in early recovery.  

What is the Pink Cloud?

In early recovery, alcoholics may find that the successes and positive changes have a strong impact. They may notice:

  • a decrease in anxiety and/or depressive symptoms,
  •  feel better physically,  
  • notice positive changes in relationships or their career.

A common, and unfortunate, challenge that an alcoholic can experience in early recovery is what is described as the Pink Cloud. Losing touch with the reality of their situation can mean that they are unable to see the challenges that they will and maybe are going through. The individual will likely experience euphoria and feel elevated.

Some refer to the pink cloud as the “honeymoon phase” of recovery as it can be compared to the positive experiences that we can have at the beginning of a new relationship. Everything feels good and exciting, there is little arguing, things may feel care free and easy.  Even though this "Pink Cloud" phase could be a positive experience, there are a lot of pitfalls linked to it as well.

As with relationships, the honeymoon phase is not a long term experience. The length of the Pink Cloud will vary from person to person, and for some lead to challenges such as a relapse. As we will discuss later in this article, this is not always the case.



Signs of the Pink Cloud

· Feeling great all the time

· Only discussing positive gains from recovery

· Not recognizing challenges

· Appearing to not be in touch with reality

· Can feel euphoric

· Feeling as though recovery is easier than they thought it would be

· Appearing too confident about their recovery

· Appearing calmer than you would expect

Pink Cloud and Addiction?

Now that we have a base line understanding of what the Pink Cloud is, let’s discuss its role in early recovery.

The Pink Cloud is a common experience, and not abnormal. So if you are reading this thinking that you may be on the Pink Cloud, know that it will be okay as long as you take steps to return back to the ground. Experiencing the Pink Cloud does not necessarily mean that an individual will struggle when it is over, however it can contribute to a relapse or an increase in negative emotions such as depression and anxiety.

The Pink Cloud is a temporary experience, and may lead to difficulties when the person comes off it. Focusing on the positives as much as is done in the Pink Cloud, can make for a harsh reality when they come back to the ground. The cloud also tends to make recovery look simple and maybe easy, when in reality it is not either of those two things.

The euphoria does not last, and neither will the confidence in their ability to cope with the challenges that come along with recovery. This could lead to some feelings of doubt, depression or anxiety.

Some find that the reality it overwhelming and eventually find themselves relapsing.

As stated above, the pink cloud does not always lead to relapse. Some are able to realize what is happening and manage it in a healthy way such as reaching out for help or going to an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. We will go further into coping later on in the article.

Some find that Pink Cloud can add to their motivation for recovery.

They have a glimpse of the positive changes that can come with recovery, and want to get to the point where the changes are more long lasting. With this, it would be important to keep themselves in check so that they are balancing their focus to include any challenges they are facing.

Dealing with the Pink Cloud

So what can we do to cope with the pink cloud?

One place to start would be listening to feedback you get from your supports. This can be close family friends, a sponsor and/or other healthy supports you may have. This may sound easy, however many have a hard time listening to feedback from others that goes against the Pink Cloud.

Some find it helpful to discuss with their supports how to bring up concerns before they have any. This can lay the foundation for open communication when both persons are on the same page.

This can include the setting that they talk to you about their concerns, the wording that they use or anything else that you feel would make it a more productive conversation.

After all, what is the danger with feeling good and being excited about a healthy recovery as you do on the Pink Cloud?

The answer is nothing is wrong with that, however it is crucial to keep your feet on the ground. Being aware of the challenges you may face allows you to prepare yourself to cope with them as they arise.

For individuals who are engaged in an outpatient or inpatient treatment program, being engaged in group and individual sessions can give others the opportunity to recognize signs that you may be on the Pink Cloud.  

This would allow them to help you work through the situation with the hopes of avoiding a relapse and other difficulties.

What If I Relapse After Being on the Pink Cloud?

If you can relate to the many other alcoholics who have relapsed after being on the Pink Cloud, know that you are not alone. There are many who have been where you are, and it possible to grow from it.

The first step would be to acknowledge what happened, and reach out for help. Whom you reach out to depends on your recovery program. For some, this may be a sponsor for others it may be a counselor or a close friend.

Try to view the relapse as a growing point, rather than a failure. Being hard on yourself about this will only make it more difficult for you.

Hind sight is always 20 20, so use that to your advantage.

What can you learn from this experience? What did the Pink Cloud look like for you? What are some of the signs that you can pick up on if it were to happen again? What precautions can you set up to avoid this in the future?

Talking your experience through with your supports and talk about how they can help you. Can they take you to a meeting? Or go out for coffee? Take time to sincerely think about how they can best support you when you are in a tough spot.

People who truly care about you will want you to succeed in your recovery attempts. As a result, they will usually do the best they can to support you. Of course this will vary from person to person as we all have limitations.  

For individuals who relapse and have not been to a treatment program, this may be a viable option to consider. There are two options, inpatient and outpatient. Which is appropriate for you is dependent on a few different variables.

For example, the length of your problematic drinking, how much you consume in one drinking episode, any previous experiences with alcohol withdrawal, the use of any other substances while drinking.

Treatment programs can be beneficial for individuals in early recovery and active addiction. Even if you have done this in the past, your addiction has progressed and you are a different person than you were during your previous engagement. In fact, compared to patients who have gotten help, those who didn’t were less likely to get a 3-year remission and consequently were more likely to experience relapse.

Treatment programs work to educate individuals about the disease of addiction and the changes that occur in the brain throughout active addiction and while in recovery. They would discuss things such as the Pink Cloud, and provide tips on how to recognize it and how to respond. For more information about the different alcohol treatment options, please follow the link.

The bottom line is that addiction is a chronic and progressive disease. If you are currently in active addiction, without some form of intervention or change, the disease will continue and can eventually lead serious health complications leading up to and including death.

Lead Writer/Reviewer : Kayla Loibl

Licensed Medical Health Professional 


I am a Mental Health Counselor who is licensed in both New York (LMHC) and North Carolina (LCMHC). I have been working in the Mental Health field since 2015. I have worked in a residential setting, an outpatient program and an inpatient addictions program. I began working in Long Island, NY and then in Guelph, Ontario after moving to Canada. Read More


Pink Cloud Foundation. Who We Are. https://pinkcloudfoundation.org/who-we-are

Healthline. Navigating the ‘Pink Cloud’ Phase of Recovery. February 10, 2020. https://www.healthline.com/health/pink-cloud

The New York Times. A NEW ATTACK ON ALCOHOLISM. October 20, 1985. https://www.nytimes.com/1985/10/20/magazine/a-new-attack-on-alcoholism.html

PubMed. Rates and predictors of relapse after natural and treated remission from alcohol use disorders. February 2006. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16445550/

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