Wednesday, January 12, 2011

“Lil’ Pink Cloud”

My sister likes this comic strip called ‘Mutts’. It’s about a pet dog and cat. I’ve seen it and I admit, it is pretty darn cute. One of the recurring themes in it is the cat’s favorite toy--a little pink sock. Maybe readers of the strip will know the history of why the sock is special or where it comes from. I don’t, but I’ve certainly seen a cat go crazy about a special sock. Way too cute. Anyway, whenever the cat plays with it, it sings this song about “Lil’ Pink Sock”. The cat is happy, filled with deep purpose, totally consumed and content with its sock.

It reminds me a little of a saying we have in Recovery about being on a “Pink Cloud”. It’s the phrase we use to describe how it feels to be new in Recovery, on fire for the program, and jazzed beyond words for how it feels to be living clean and sober for the first time. It's kind of like being in love.

I don’t remember too much of my pink cloud. I won’t pretend that I didn’t have one, it’s just that in those early days, I was still detoxing. The world was still much of a haze to me until all the stuff had finally worked its way out of my system. I do remember being quick to point out others’ faults and having the amazing ability to tell when someone else was an addict/alcoholic. Which is to say, I thought everyone was one and needed to work a 12-step program. Ah, hubris. Thank God for other people in the program who were there to teach me not to take others’ inventory. Thank God for the patience of those in my life who were patient with me until I’d calmed down into a more balanced perspective.

The pink cloud isn’t dangerous, per se, but it can be. Until we have worked through the steps, we still haven’t been restored to sanity. We don’t have enough experience dealing with life on life’s terms, with a sober perspective, to have good judgment yet. We are looking at the world through rose colored glasses. The disease is still in us, shaping our thoughts. We've only just begun to practice the principles of the program. But a little Recovery can set us on fire to the point that we think we know everything--or even just a few little things--for certain.

I’ve heard newcomers share about the excitement they feel, how great it is to be sober, how grateful they are for the program and all it has done for them. Which cracks me up. It’s awesome to hear someone talk about how on fire they are for Recovery, but when they talk about how they’re so on fire for it that they’re in it for life, I have to make sure I don’t laugh. Because if someone is talking about how they’re in it for life, they’re totally missing the point. This is a one day at a time program. Period. We don’t try to stay sober for life; we don’t try to work the program ‘til the end of our days.

We work the program on a daily basis. The program teaches us how to be in the moment, how to live in the now. It teaches us, too, that it’s not our place to proselytize. It’s not our job to determine what’s right for anyone else--just for ourselves. The Big Book of AA is very clear on this. We have not found ‘the’ way, only ‘a’ way. Our approach to others who suffer from the disease is not to say to them, “hey, you need to work the program!” It’s to say, “you know, I tried this thing and it worked for me. If you’re interested, I’d be happy to talk to you about it.”

The pink cloud doesn’t last (nothing does--‘this, too, shall pass’). Coming down from the pink cloud can be every bit as rough as coming down from a high, or having a wretched hangover. That’s when the real difficulty comes; that’s when we truly need the program. The newness fades, and we start putting the teachings of the program into practice. That’s when we find ourselves tested. We learn that we must reaffirm our commitment to the sober lifestyle on a daily basis.

Recovery is a journey. It’s a path that one walks, a path full of discovery. It is the path of the full range of human emotions and experiences. We can feel the highest highs, the deepest lows, and get through all of it without getting loaded. When the pink cloud fades, we discover that it is damn hard. And then it gets worse. Then it gets a little better. Then it gets a whole lot worse. Eventually, we start the slow climb of getting better. And if we stay on the path, we will keep climbing.

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