In early recovery, I heard tell of a mystical pink cloud, appearing randomly around starry-eyed newcomers. According to my sources, it shows up like puppy love, and envelopes the newly hopeful in a protective layer of “holy shit, life doesn’t actually have to suck!”
I didn’t think it could happen to me. And then it did. One day, I simply didn’t feel as much like crap, and happened to notice. For me at least, I think the pink cloud showed up the moment I really believed Step 2:
“Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could
restore us to sanity.” (Alcoholics Anonymous, p. 59)
It took a while. I’d been in the program for a couple of years and had long since completed my first round of steps. I had experienced the inexplicable relief recovery can bring: I no longer felt the constant pull to anesthetize with my substance of choice. But I was starting to drift away from my program, going to a couple of meetings but no longer doing the footwork. One thing led to another, and before I knew it I was dipping my finger into my friend’s drink—twice. First, because we were at a Renaissance Festival, and I had never had mead before and, damn it, mead is ye olde and romantic and I wanted to be a part of! Second, because I felt guilty that no one saw me do it the first time, so I had to do it again. In front of a witness. So I could justify to that witness why it was okay for me to be dip-tasting his drink. Insanity.
Shortly after came a hectic business event where I knowingly ate a rum-loaded piece of Tiramisu. After the first fume-inducing bite, I paused and said “fuck it”. And down my gullet it went. That is when I told on myself (for real this time) and called my sponsor. It was time for a change.
After a recovery date-reset, I added a new meeting into my weekly schedule. It became my home group. I re-started my steps with my sponsor and this time, really grappled with Step 2 and Step 3. This time, I didn’t want to borrow my spiritual connection from the program, my new age church or my sponsor. I wanted my own. And I really wanted to believe. I worked harder on those steps than I did when I was desperate to get sober.
After much anxiety and frustration, I finally confessed that I just couldn’t quite get my spiritual connection to stay plugged in long enough for me to really buy Step 2. For moments, I would feel this tingly awe and realize how amazing everything is. Then, bzzzzt…the connection would short out, and that power greater than myself was remote and impossible, yet again. My sponsor advised I relax and stop trying so hard. Odd advice to give a convicted slacker but her instincts were spot on.
I surrendered, I asked for help, I did the footwork, I relaxed into it and lo and behold…. pink cloud! I honestly never thought it could happen for me but it did. I was truly euphoric for a nice little stretch—living off the joy of possibility. It was like the Berlin wall coming down; something I never thought was possible in my lifetime, until it was. Me…there was hope for not just you, and you, and him, and her, but also for me. There is a higher power that does indeed give a shit and is actually accessible to help me make my life not suck. And maybe help a person or two or the planet or something. Wow.
The only problem with my pink cloud was it was shaped more like a nice full party balloon, and I made the mistake of showing it off at meeting level. After saying how excited I was not to feel like crap, a wise “old-timer” came up to me and said with a beatific Mona Lisa smile: “don’t worry, honey, this too shall pass.” Well didn’t that mother fucker pop just like that. #thankyouforsharingcommabeyatch
Let me just pause to say, when I meet up with a newcomer who has found his or her pink cloud, I try very hard both not to be envious and not to break it for them—in case theirs is as fragile as mine was. #yourwelcome
I nursed that resentment a bit (maybe still need to do a little 4th on that one). But I think in her own way, that old-timer was trying to help me avoid the illusion that I could carry my cloud/balloon around as permanent insulation from real life. Since I couldn’t reconstruct my cloud, and I didn’t want to go back to the pain of disconnectedness, I had to pick up my tools. I worked my program. I keep working it. And while that pink sparkly euphoria hasn’t returned, I have learned not only how to survive without it, but to thrive without it. I am strong, grateful beyond measure, full of fear and doubt to this day, but confident that it doesn’t matter. All I have to do is keep stepping and take it one day at a time.
For all my friends in recovery (and that’s all of you) I wish you the very merriest and happiest of holidays. My prayer for us all is to find and keep the joy that comes from knowing there is a solution.