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Life After the Pink Cloud

Issue 20

For a couple in recovery, the journey across the many phases of growth can be surprising, challenging, and rewarding. We have found it’s helpful to understand these phases and the issues that may come up.

Twenty-four hour victories over maladaptive behaviors in the first year is often marked by relief and lots of support.

When the couple begins regularly sharing at mutual aid groups and becomes part of a new community, it is the beginning of a new life.

People refer to this early stage as a “pink cloud”— the couple’s feeling of elation with their new successful life.

However, it can also be a time of unrealistic hope; a time when they expect their partner to be as happy as they are with their changes.

Partners can feel resentful and jealous during this stage, and hesitant to share their feelings, fearing their loved one will relapse.

When the couple begins regularly sharing at mutual aid groups and becomes part of a new community, it is the beginning of a new life.

Once the pink cloud disappears, people can feel discouraged and unsupported, bringing up more confusion in the relationship.

This is a crucial time to share in each other’s recovery, create lots of space to examine expectations and feelings, and perhaps seek couples’ counseling.

Through the next few years, much time is spent putting lives back together.

Finances, jobs, relationships, and family decisions become stressful if the couple is not aligned. This is a good time to talk about mutual goals and further explore the amends process.

This may also be a time that other “isms” of addiction pop up.

Likewise, the couple’s codependency has been disrupted and new behaviors need to be learned, tried out, discussed, and trusted.

The couple usually discovers deeper connection in practicing interdependence.

Finally, we know from research that long-term recovery from years five and up brings new challenges.

People often attend meetings less frequently or stop all together, personal growth may have been put on a back burner as “life on life’s terms” becomes real, and co-occurring mental health issues such as depression may take center stage.

This is more reason to come back to a formula for success which includes community, health, and a program for deeper self-growth.

The couple’s journey throughout life is about transforming suffering into joy.

As Bill W., co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous wrote, recovery is not about quantity, it’s about quality.

Elaine Shamos
Elaine Shamos
Elaine Shamos, MPH, has 30 years experience as a public health professional and is the former director of Dartmouth’s Women’s Health Resource Center. Glenn Simpson, LCSW, CADC, has a private practice specializing in substance use disorder, and couples therapy. They are working together on a book for couples in recovery.

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