Marathoners often cite the first two or three miles of a 26-mile race as the hardest.

It is in those first few miles that the runner must find their pace, achieve measured breathing, and learn to work with the pain and discomfort that begins long before the finish line.

There will be uneasiness, and even distress, but as the distance ticks off there also will be the rewards of easier terrain and less trickiness to your course. These will be the rewards for bearing through the initial difficulties of your lengthy journey.

Alcohol and drug recovery can be like a marathon. Endurance is needed as well as a confident rhythm through the process of detox and rehab. Patience is also part of the program.

But where marathoners suffer through the first miles of their race, a person in rehab who is newly recovered may find their own first “miles” (meaning days, or even weeks) as euphoric.

In rehabilitation, this pattern of elation is known as the Pink Cloud Syndrome.

This pink cloud usually occurs in the early stages of a person’s recovery from addiction.

They are abundantly confident, immeasurably happy, and if they are high on anything it’s life itself.

In short, now that they are substance free they feel as if they’ve won their war with addiction.

And yet, for all that the Pink Cloud Syndrome offers in elation and relief to an addict, others who have properly completed rehab and achieved sobriety within a 30, 60 or 90-day program tend to regard pink cloud more of an aberration than as a true accomplishment toward a substance-free life.

Much like a mirage in which you think you see palm trees and water just at the sandy edge of a desert’s horizon, a pink cloud can offer its own delusion.

And in sobriety, delusion is where the real early recovery danger begins.


This pink cloud is often a condition that befalls the rookie.

Those more experienced in recovery may meet the rookie pink clouds with eye rolls. They may even consider the phenomenon mildly obnoxious for all of its overzealous life-is-great outlook. For those more experienced they know that for a sustainable recovery there is still a long way to go.

Because the real danger of pink cloud is relapse.

What to keep the following in mind if you eventually experience the Pink Cloud Syndrome yourself:

  • Pink Cloud feelings don’t last indefinitely. And as those feelings end, a sudden return to the reality that your budding sobriety still needs a lot of work: It can sometimes be devastating.
  • Overconfidence can lead to a sense of complacency about recovery, which then can lead to relapse simply because you haven’t worked to improve and build upon your sobriety.
  • Ignoring, supplanting, or even denying life’s problems during your newly found sobriety do not eradicate them from your own life. Life-issues can easily surface again, though in a much larger and more acute state which puts more pressure on you and your efforts toward sobriety.

Often the result of the pink cloud is overconfidence. However, this overconfidence can in turn cause a relapse which will not only throw a wrench in a person’s recovery process, relapse may also cause a person to second-guess their ability to become sober in the first place.

A relapse occurs when an addict reverts to their abusive habits before they have realized sobriety. They drink or imbibe drugs or they seek alternative substances thinking they can still stay sober because the alternative substance isn’t their drug of choice.

Needless to say, there’s no sugarcoating nor lessening of a relapse’s consequences. A relapse essentially means all your work and effort toward obtaining a substance-free life begins again. You are at square one as all the ground you gained to become sober is, to a degree, lost.

Keep in mind that recovery is a process and often requires adjustments and improvements. Relapse does not necessarily mean that treatment was a failure.


If pink cloud and relapse are two distinct points in a rehab’s dysfunction, overconfidence is the bridge between these points.

While there are an infinite number of issues outside of a person’s control that can bring on a relapse, overconfidence due to pink cloud is one of the leading causes.

Of course, none of this is new. Alcoholics Anonymous initially linked pink cloud with sober overconfidence back in 1955. To combat the effects of pink cloud, AA believed an addict is best served if they remain in their treatment facility for the entire duration of their rehab, and if possible, be humble about their recovery once it is gained.


True confidence in sobriety needs time. It requires nurturing, education, a strong support system, and a knowledge base of what triggers exist in the world that can lead a person into relapse.

Just because a substance abuser in recovery believes they are “safe and sober” doesn’t necessarily cut the mustard when it comes to reintroduction back into mainstream life.

Think of sobriety as an earned rank similar to what is given in the military, or a rise in position at a job; the new rank or title needs qualification and pink cloud in no way represents that mark.

It’s merely the highpoint of what will be a series of highpoints as well as low points in one’s journey toward sobriety.

To avoid pink cloud, you first need to understand it happens to everyone. Sure, it might not happen to all newly recovered addicts, but at the same point, the Pink Cloud Syndrome can occasionally affect old long-term former substance abusers.

Work past the pink cloud syndrome by continuing with your efforts to stay sober, no matter your age or the length of your sobriety.

Don’t lapse with your treatment and never prematurely end your rehab sessions.

Build your support system, and once your 30, 60 or 90-day treatment is finished, actively look into sober living facilities to further fortify your sobriety.

Or, as many a marathoner professes, to finish the race, you have to run the entire 26 miles.

Only then will you have covered the needed distance to earn a right to cross the finish line in glory.

If you or a loved one feels a need to overcome an addiction, contact BLVD Treatment Centers. At BLVD Treatment Centers we custom tailor our recovery programs within the safe and nurturing confines of our rehab treatment centers. Located throughout Southern California, in Los Angeles, Orange County, San Diego and in Portland, OR, our mission is to assess the severity of your addiction to help you achieve true recovery. Call us now at 1-866.582.9844.

The Pink Cloud Syndrome