Today, we explore what is “pink fluffy cloud feeling”, how to cope with it, and what it means for you when you are changing your drinking habits – especially when you decide to quit alcohol. You can watch Laura’s webinar by clicking on the image below.
Pink Cloud Syndrome was first coined by Alcoholics Anonymous but is actually quite a common phenomenon when it comes to behaviour change. It describes the sudden euphoric highs as you begin to feel better and notch up some successes as a result of the change.
For many of us happiness might previously have been suppressed by alcohol, so these feelings can be particularly intense. The feeling might be one of “life is wonderful”, or “I can do anything”, or “quitting drinking was easy, what was all the fuss about?”. Some say that this lasts only a few months, some for a year or two, and others don’t even recall feeling it at all.
I felt it from 3 months in as I volunteered at the Olympics (how could you not!) and marvelled at the fact I was there, fresh at 6am! For 18 months I had what I can only describe as a million little epiphanies.
However, as your body adjusts to your new life of sobriety, rapid changes in mood can scupper your goal. It’s good to feel great (obviously), but when you aren’t feeling good, you’re more likely to seek out whatever remedy it takes to restore the euphoria. The happiness you feel might be superficial, or create unrealistic expectations about the progress you are making.
It is quite common that these extremes in mood, the Pink Fluffy Cloud that creates a feeling of being too high on life, can be a risk to the progress you make.
It might seem strange to claim that there could be anything bad about feeling good. After potentially years of hangovers and alcohol-related comedowns, you feel you deserve to feel great. Giving up alcohol is difficult, you’ve worked hard to deserve the high. Feeling happy itself isn’t dangerous. What is dangerous is feeling complacent or over-confident about your goals. You might forget why you set them in the first place, or conclude that your problems are now over. This could lead to a relapse.
There is also the risk that you could become hung up on the pink cloud, and chase the feeling unrealistically. The pink cloud is short-lived in nature. It is caused by the new intensity of everyday feelings rather than genuine long-term happiness. So when the pink cloud ends, it could result in a huge low. And if you relapse, the low will get bigger.
For me the low came after 18 months or so. Work got stressful, I got a chest infection, I had got used to my new relationship – things just began to feel normal!
The danger comes from the fact that when we undergo a big life change, there are moments when we don’t really understand our feelings or why we are feeling them. They bubble up out of nowhere. Sometimes they don’t match how our mind thinks we should be feeling. So overall, they are an unreliable quantifier for how you are doing in life. If you let them dictate your actions, it is likely you will be let down. Better to be prepared to handle random or unfamiliar emotions to keep your progress on track.
One way to cope with the pink fluffy cloud feeling is to enjoy it while it lasts, but accept that it is a short-term part of your long-term goal. It is not true that you should feel good all of the time (see last week’s webinar). And it’s also not true that if you don’t feel good then you must be doing something wrong. There will be highs and lows in your journey, as in life. So it might help to see the pink cloud as part of the bigger picture of your emotions.
Another good defence is remembering why you began your journey in the first place. Although you knew that quitting drinking would probably make you happier in the long term, your main goal was to rid yourself of an addictive and dangerous substance. This is the most important thing. Remembering this will help other concerns pale into insignificance.
Feeling the effects of the pink fluffy cloud doesn’t mean being happy is bad. Just examine the type of happiness, its intensity and why you’re feeling it. Remember why you started this journey, the goals you set and the reasons you set them. That hasn’t changed. Emotions fluctuate naturally, and life isn’t just one straight line. Think about how you felt in the past and how you might feel in the future, rather than being blinded by the present.
Elevations Health says that “feelings are not facts”. Understanding that you do not need to control how emotions move about in your life is one of the greatest defences you can mount in order to defend against the disintegration of your pink cloud. The issue isn’t feeling good, but staying on track.
We are here to help! In your happiest and lowest points.