Terrible Twos: The Pink Cloud

To begin, here’s a new entry to my GlossAAry. (Yes, it’s pertinent…there’s a madness to my method!)

Pink Cloud

sobriety recovery alcoholism

Where the pink elephants used to live, and what you have left now they’ve gone.

Right next to Cloud Nine, the Pink Cloud is the feeling of relief you feel when you stop pounding your head against the stone wall of inebriation, convinced you will somehow break through.

Not everyone experiences this high in the first year of sobriety, and usually those that do get it say that it lasts only a few months.


In my previous post, where i discussed how the second year of recovery presents some unique challenges, fellow Recovery Artist Mrs D left a comment saying,

Oh, I want to know more about this .. heading as I am into my second year…

i think in my case, one of the reasons i’m finding it harder to trudge the road of Happy Destiny in Year 2 A.D. (After Drinking) is that i did experience the Pink Cloud. If i remember correctly, it began in my 2nd month of sobriety and lasted about 2 months total. After that, the feelings faded.

Why? Since i was feeling good every day, feeling good became the new norm. If you win the lottery daily, there comes a point when you stop throwing a party over it.

How can we fight this complacency? One of the tools i use is the Gratitude List. Reminding myself of how far i’ve come and the misery i came from is powerful encouragement.

The only other way to really get a taste of the hell i escaped from is to have a taste of the hell i escaped from, and that’s just crazy talk. i’ll take a boring day in Heaven over a rough day in Hell any time.


About Al K Hall

Like a battered drinker or a punch drunk boxer, i am here for another round. For those of you who don’t know me, i’m a semi-professional writer on the rocks and a non-practicing alcoholic (if after 30 years of practicing, you still can't do something well, it's best to just give it up). For those of you who do know me, thanks for stopping by anyway and where’s the ten bucks you owe me? Welcome to my Bar None. A hole in the wall where we can hang out and trade the kind of stories you swap only when you’ve had one too many and either can’t find your way home or are afraid to. Hell, it’s cheaper than therapy and plus the pictures are prettier. Here we’ll crack open bottles and jokes and ‘last call’ are the only dirty words you’ll never hear. Pull up a stool and make yourselves at home.

Posted on September 18, 2012, in Alcoholism, Lessons in Recovery, Recovery, Toolbox and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 17 Comments.

  1. Oh gawd that photo is enough to put any self-respecting woman (or man) off drinking… and I do also really like the simple illustration you used in your last post. Just went back and read all the comments that came from your last post. I am appreciating this discussion. It’s a long road. In my first year I spent a lot of time visualizing myself sober at upcoming events, in order to reprogram my brain to see life ahead of me without booze in it. Just in the last few days I’ve started visualizing my life 10, 20 years ahead with me still sober. Really programming myself to accepting my life will always be dry. And I am fine with that.. but it’s such a head game isn’t it… and finding new ways to feel fulfilled, without the booze, is an on-going challenge. Loving your work, cheers xxxx

    • Yeah that picture is outright scary :). And don’t you ever try to leave heaven buddy, we like you up here with us!

    • i so get the reprogramming concept. Right now my thoughts seem to be in such a jumble that i’d take any freaking program. But you’re right, it’s nice to have a lot of these people commenting…the discussion is helping me get my head straight and keep my stuff together! Your contribution included!

      Keep coming back,

      Al K Hall

  2. I suspect there is something going on with you other than “I’m not on the pink cloud” anymore. I mean, people just have shitty periods of their life, regardless their stage of recovery. Everyone goes though rough spots. If you had won the lottery last month, do you think you’d be writing these “terrible two” posts? I suspect they’d be more of the “Life is good and I can appreciate it now that I’m sober (and rich)” variety. It might be worth it to take the time to figure out what it is and either correct it, if it is correctable or “accept” it, if it’s one of those things you cannot change.

    I guess it could be Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome But you’ve been dry long enough (and said you never really experienced it before). Me thinks it’s something else. –BOAT

    • Thanks for another great comment. It got me thinking and i realize you’re right, that it’s not just becoming accustomed to happiness. i was talking to Celeste E Hall about it and lately i’ve been feeling raw, exposed and fragile. In the past, alcohol created a buffer and now that the bandages have come off, i feel like i’m sitting here with my wounds exposed, waiting for scars to form. The image i told Celeste was that i feel like i’ve had my skin peeled off and i have to walk through an ice storm. So i think that’s what’s behind the last two posts. i feel vulnerable and incapable of dealing with the routine. Is that ‘correctable’? Unfortunately, i fear it is only with time, and that i just have to plod through the present as best i can. It helps that people like you guys are here to help, let me tell you.

      Keep coming back,

      Al K Hall

      • Hmmm. Is this ongoing? Or is there something triggering it?

        Certainly, I’ve felt vulnerable and naked. At my last job, there was no sense of privacy. No offices. Not even cubes. We all sat in a very large room with our computers on the desk in front of us. A couple guys noticed that I never drink (the company had a beer fridge so people would pop open beers at the end of the day) and would tease me about it, because they knew it upset me. It could be so hard to concentrate on work when they were hovering around getting buzzed, because I never knew when another one of those comments would be made. So I kicked the shit out them. Not physically. I would just make their lives so difficult by making nasty comments about them in meetings, or forcing them to change their desks, till they were reduced to quivering little meat sacks and the threat was eliminated. I plan to blog about that sometime. So I’ve experienced the vulnerability. But I knew what was causing it. And I deal with it.

        Or I feel waves of irritation and pain surround me when I’m stuck in traffic. It happens in LA, you know. But it goes away whenever I get to where I have to be.

        An ongoing sense of dread with no explainable cause, I’ve never experienced. Maybe you should exercise more? Check your diet? See a doctor? Too much coffee? Maybe you need a massage?

        • Hey there,

          Yeah it’s ongoing in the sense that it started a while ago and has been getting worse. Part of the reason for this is that, as Celeste E Hall had to move back to the States, is that i’m now living kind of alone (with my 17-year-old son who sometimes stays with friends or at his Mom’s, but most of the time with me)–that and the fact that my wife had to move away are probably big causes.

          Something i’m realizing is that i need to go to more AA meetings. They- are always a big help in terms of changing my attitude. i get a boost of strength there and feel better about my situation.

          Glad you were able to manage the office scene! Sounds hellish but also sounds like it finished well.

          They way you describe it sounds like movie! Keep on rocking me, baby, and keep coming back,

          Al K Hall

          • If your son is anything like what I was like when I was 17, I can understand why you’re going nuts. My poor mother and father were always worried about me and my drinking and general troublemaking.

            And I’m sure you miss your wife very much.

            At any rate, it doesn’t sound like your problems are directly related to alcohol abuse or withdrawal. In fact you seem to be having problems “normal” people have. But you no longer have the temporary escape that alcohol used to give you. So alternatives are necessary.

            If meetings work for you, then go to more. They calmed me down too. But I found that my running was a good escape for me after a while. And your blog is an excellent source of support for me.

            I still think exercise can help you. Can you find 15 minutes to go for a bike ride each day? Also, are you taking vitamins? I found myself going nuts and realized I was out of those Emergen-C packets. As soon as I started taking those, I felt normal again. Can’t hurt…

            Hang in there, Al. I know it hurts. But at least you know that alcohol won’t cure your pain.

          • i totally agree that my problems are “normal people” problems that i’m internalizing in an unhealthy way, rather than approaching them with more perspective. i went to a meeting last night and it felt really good and helped me gain some of that perspective / distance i need when confronting “life”.

            Thanks for your mention of this blog. It’s a big help for me as well and nice to be able to come to a place where i can air my clean laundry and get some suggestions. i’ll still keep the dirty laundry for the Bar None, but this is a good place for me to come and be a different myself.

            As for the exercise, i don’t have a car and tend to walk very fast and i walk in 20 minute sessions at a pace brisk enough for me to break a sweat. i realize it’s not “real exercise” but it gives me enough of a physical workout that i’m not going to go hunting for other outlets. Vitamins, on the other hand, is great advice. i eat in much smaller quantities than i did in the past and what i do eat is not extremely well-balanced nutritionally so i get frequent energy crashes.

            i’ve also been making an effort to sleep more, and hopefully i’ll start feeling the benefits of that soon, as well.

            Thanks a lot for the time and thought that went into your response, brother. It’s a big help just knowing there are peeps out there who got my back.

            Keep coming back,

            Al K Hall

  3. I really like what Mrs D has to say about reprogramming the brain up there in her comment. I think that visualization can be something really helpful: creating a self-fulfilling prophecy. That’s a great thought/idea to put into practice.

    The only other way to really get a taste of the hell i escaped from is to have a taste of the hell i escaped from, and that’s just crazy talk. i’ll take a boring day in Heaven over a rough day in Hell any time.

    And this statement just goes to show what sanity you have gained since you came out of the insanity that was using. I can remember a time when you would have claimed that a rough day in hell was “more interesting,” and therefore preferable to a boring day in heaven… And then the Bottom arrived! It’s interesting what it takes for each person to find that place of recognition that no day in hell is preferable. I’m glad you eventually got there.

    I hope that instead of pink clouds, you find firm earth under your feet. Firm friendships to keep you grounded. Solid, dry land to stand on, where you were once tossed by the waves, and drowning because of the Sirens. (I just re-read something you wrote about that the other day… remember that?)

    It’s like you are Ulysses, home after long adventures, and ready to hang up your traveling hat. Retirement from risky living, knowing that *living* is the real preference here, not drowning and dying.

    I’m really glad to know that you see the old waves that threatened to drown you as misery, and have no use for jumping into that sea again.

    As for trudging year two, well, yes, sometimes it/life/recovery is an uphill walk. When I used to climb mountains there were points where it would have been the easier thing to just turn around and go back, but if I had done so, I would have denied myself the thrill of standing at the top of the peak, knowing I worked hard to get there! So this was my solution: just focus on my feet, not the uphill climb ahead, and just keep putting one foot in front of the other.

    There were two things that helped me: having a friend to motivate me to keep going up the hill, and Lemon Drops candies. The friend I usually climbed with was a guy with much longer legs, so he was usually ahead. I would be motivated to keep up with him, and he was good about not getting too far ahead, too. That is a good friend. Next, the candies. I would take ten steps and then have one Lemon Drop. I’d keep feeding myself Lemon Drops this way, and before I knew it, I was up to the top. I could rest, have lunch, admire the view, and feel really good at having a peak experience.

    Sure, then there was the journey of going back down, not an easy thing, actually. Tougher on the knees than going up. Also, easy to slip and slide on the shale rocks. But the motivation in this case was pizza at the town down the hills towards the city, some of the best pizza ever. It was a reward for getting down the mountain without spilling ass over teakettle on the rocks.

    The next weekend, we’d pick another to climb. 🙂 Why did we do it? I guess so that we could feel like we were alive. Climbing was/is a nice metaphor for life itself, one that 20-some odd years later, I still use as a reference for what it is like to do this thing called “Life.”

    Another saying that is truth when it comes to trudging times: the only way out is through. Eventually, year two will pass and move on to year three. Most here I have been reading in comments report that it gets easier with time. I know that is true for things like grief, when a person you love dies. The first couple of years are the hardest. So I think it must be true for this, too. As with grief, trying to ignore the difficulties one is having is not preferred — it will only delay the inevitable of having to go through the process that leads to acceptance. It’s the one-foot-in-front-of-the-other idea here: take it moment to moment and continue to use those tools to stay in the game of achieving sobriety.

    I think Mrs D is spot on with her idea about how sometimes it is hard to find ways to feel fulfilled without _______. (insert substance in blank).

    But it is possible. Think about all the fulfilling options that are out there not involving the DOC! It could be as simple as finding clues in that gratitude list: keep doing those things which lead to gratitude. Keep intentionally making choices to find fulfilling things that don’t involve the substance formerly abused.

    Yeah, I need to follow my own words, lol. But it is nice to know that I can come up with the ideas. That’s a start, too. And then picking one thing to work on.

    So I think that means tonight I should go to bed early, and then wake up prepared to tackle a couple of things I have been procrastinating. I’m not going to get out of the hole I am in if I keep sitting at the bottom of it, wondering if someone is going to throw me a rope.

    The only way out is through. The only way out is climbing up!

    • “The only way out is through.”

      Such a simple axiom and one i keep forgetting about. It doesn’t make the now much easier, but it is nice to remember there is a ‘through’ to get to. Plus, i’m getting a little better at asking those around me for help and that in itself is making the journey a little easier because i feel less alone. Thank god it gets easier with time.

      Thanks as well for your great advice. There’s a lot here to think about and i appreciate the time and effort that went into your brainstorm. Don’t forget to use some of these ideas yourself!

      And keep coming back,

      Al K Hall

      • Such a simple axiom…

        Stuff usually comes down to these pretty simple axioms, lol. Why is that? I mean, it really IS so simple, but doing it, remembering it, often feels hard. I think sometimes I can help myself along by remembering it usually is something pretty simple like this.

        Looks like you are doing good work by writing things out here and thinking things through. And hey, see? A couple more days passed since you posted this, and you are even further than you were a few days ago through Year 2.

        ITSB is pretty smart about this stuff, eh? 🙂

        I’ll be back, don’t worry! On the blog, anyway, lol — kinda hard to be another kind of back unless miracles ensue! Or the simple thing of one foot in front of the other. It is how mountains get climbed, though. Even Everest! 😉


        • Hey there 🙂

          Remembering it is the tricky part, like with a lot of tools in the tool box. It’s all well and good to know how to use them, but if you forget which ones are there, you can’t even get that far.

          i a definitely hanging in there. The peeps here have been a big help and the meeting Thursday helped, i’ll hit another one tomorrow, and i’ve been reaching out to some support “back home” and he’s been a life saver as well, so yeah, 2 more days down in 2 AD (After Drinking).

          Keep coming back (here, at least, lol),

          Al K Hall

  4. This is so great – I am only one month one of sobriety, but I can relate it to my depression. Every time I come out of a depressive episode, and things are on the up and up, and I am managing a job, showering, exercising, vitamins (whatever) – the pink cloud. I think how amazing ‘normal’ feels; you know, not wanting to die every day… and then suddenly it starts to become normal, I get complacent and fuck it up. Usually by drinking or partying, thinking it is okay for me to drink now since I am ‘fixed’ (not depressed) haha… and then you realise you are addicted to the cycle itself!

    • Hi Seoul Survivor 😉 !

      Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. i especially appreciate it as it’s given me a chance to reread it. This post surprised me a little from the “downer” attitude i discuss in the comments; this surprises me because i’ve come so far out of it that i neither remember nor recognize myself like this!

      The point its, none of the emotions you’re feeling now are permanent, so try not to think on them as ‘you’. The way you’re feeling right now is temporary, but the overall person you are will get stronger and happier every day you stay away from the drink.

      Thanks for stopping by and keep coming back,

      Al K Hall

  1. Pingback: Hey wow, day 21 | Becoming Human

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