The Allure of the Pink Cloud
I have somewhat of an obsession for sunrises. Living in South Florida, I feel especially blessed because dawn often provides me with some of the most exquisite skies around. When I open my eyes in the morning, the warm hues enter my bedroom window, and I am given a hint of what is waiting outside. It is all the encouragement I need to throw on a pair of sneakers and to rush outside to see just what gorgeous colors are waiting for me in the sky. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that I am usually greeted by warm temperatures and palm trees. But why am I so drawn to this early morning sky? Undoubtedly, for me, it is the beauty of the pink cloud.
For me, the pink cloud signifies the start of something new; the possibility of something amazing; maybe extraordinary. The sky is visually-stunning. It is spectacular. There are perhaps not enough words to describe just how wonderful everything looks and feels at that particular moment in time. The pink cloud is there but only for a short time. Soon enough, the sun will rise higher in the sky, and the colors of the day will return to their state of normal. Yes, the sky may be a vibrant blue, or maybe the clouds will arrive and everything will have a dull gray tone. We really don’t know how the sky will change through the day. It can change hour by hour, especially in South Florida. The sky is predictably unpredictable. So, for the few minutes that I am enveloped by the pink clouds, I let it take over all my senses. It is a quiet hour of the day, the grass is dewy, the air smells fresh, the temperature is mild, and the sky, well, the sky is just exquisite. I want to capture this moment. I want to stay in this sensory perfection. But I have experienced too many of these beautiful mornings to know that it simply cannot, and will not, last.
The pink cloud described by people in early recovery can have a very similar impact. Once the withdrawal period has ended, and the detox is complete, our thought processes start to re-organize. Our body no longer has that vicious and nagging ache, and the urges and cravings that made us want to crawl out of our own skin have subsided. Maybe these feelings have not completely dissipated, but we are so much more comfortable now than we felt just a week or so ago. We are relieved of the mental obsession enough so that we can think about all the amazing things we want to accomplish today. Our limbs feel stronger than they have in a long time. Our bowels are working again. Our minds are no longer clouded by the fog of the high that came at the tip of the needle once it pierced our skin. This. This is our pink cloud. This is our sign that we are free from the chains of our addiction, and today we are able to regain control of our lives, our loved ones, our physical, mental, and emotional faculties. This, in our recovery experience, feels damn near close to perfection.
But much like the glory of dawn, and the perfection of the sky in those brief moments, the pink cloud can be very misleading. The pink cloud at dawn is by no means an indicator of what the day will bring. Similarly, the pink cloud of early recovery can fool you harshly. Yes, the pink cloud can be a sign of good things, a snapshot of hope for a beautiful day ahead, but the pink cloud offers no guarantees. And the most common mistake made in early recovery is allowing the pink cloud to mislead us, allowing us to experience a false sense of security, and a feeling of over-confidence. The pink cloud may generate the belief that you are ready to return to your normal, daily life. You feel so good, so strong in your convictions, that you believe you are immune to the people, places, and things that could lure you back into that dark place of your addiction.
While the pink cloud can be a sign of the amazing experiences that are waiting for you in your recovery, it is by no means a guarantee, and it is certainly not a sign that you have arrived at a safe place on your journey. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. Unless you look at the pink cloud as simply a trick of the light, similar to a mirage on the road on a hot and sunny afternoon drive, you are at a very high risk for relapse. You are prone to forgetting all the hard work that you must engage in each and every day. In order to retain this new gift of sobriety, for hours, days, weeks, months, and years to come, you must faithfully do the work. Someone once told me, “sobriety has a 24-hour shelf-life.” When I asked what was meant by this, I was told that every single day, you must start again. Be thankful for the new day, but do not take for granted that, just because you did not pick up yesterday, that you are safe today. Start over with your prayers, your meditations, your gratitude lists, and your hope. It is just for today. Using the pink cloud as your measure of how beautiful and free of risks and triggers you will be today, would be like leaving the house without a jacket or an umbrella. Sure, you may not need those items. It may not be cold, and it may not rain. But on the other hand, you may get caught in a torrential downpour, and the temperature may suddenly drop down. You simply cannot rely upon the pink cloud as a sure thing. At best, it is a hint of how good things could be, but only if you are fully prepared to put in all the work to get there. At worst, the pink cloud could be the devil in disguise, ready to give you false beliefs that you are more than ready to take on sobriety and that you don’t need to do any more work for it.
Enjoy the dawn of a new day. Take in the beautiful colors of rose gold adorning the fluffy white clouds in the sky. Allow yourself that short amount of time to appreciate what may be possible. You do not have to disregard the positive feelings that surround you with the pink cloud. But remain grounded in reality. Understand that this is just a brief moment in your day, and that by no means is this an indication of what the remainder of the day will hold for you. To believe otherwise would mean putting yourself at a high risk for disappointment, and maybe even relapse. Find your ability to appreciate the sights and sounds indicative of hope, but understand that this is just a glimpse of what may be possible. It is by no means a sign that you have arrived in your utopia of recovery.
Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.
-Robert Frost (1874-1963)