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  • Writer's pictureLandon Payne

Sober Life, Pt. 4: Beyond The Pink Cloud

Updated: Dec 30, 2022

To begin... This holiday season has been action-packed. I'm writing this from the other side of Thanksgiving and Christmas, barely hanging on to what's left of my mind. 🙂


All jokes aside, this holiday season has been one of the most memorable and enjoyable for a number of reasons. From my unbelievably wonderful partner scratching things off my wish list to visiting with family and friends I haven't seen in a while, this holiday season exceeded my expectations. I wasn't so sure it would be, due to my car breaking down on me at the beginning of December. However, it was resolved and WE MADE IT THROUGH!!!


With 2023 hours away, I've been reflecting on the past year. Let's just say, I had an absolutely phenomenal 2022 (despite a lot of the BS outside of my control). I was promoted at work, I fell in love, and my writing career saw a little boost, but most importantly, I stayed sober. Despite this, the holidays nearly did me in. The alcohol, the alcohol ads, and the astounding amount of drunk people I managed to avoid all year just hit me like a ton of bricks.


Fear Of Missing Out (FOMO) will have you second-guessing yourself and your sobriety. Don't let the false narrative fool you and don't give in.

During the weekend of Thanksgiving, I had some extended family over for good times. You know how it is when you haven't seen your out-of-state cousins in a while. Things get a little crazy but in the absolute best ways. I tell a lot of my friends and family, it's okay to drink around me. I can handle being around people drinking as long as the environment isn't chaotic. If I'm in control of the environment, please drink away, albeit responsibly. However, this holiday season I felt a noticeable shift in my reaction to the drinking around me.


Before now, my cravings were practically nonexistent. Thoughts of drinking would quickly fade as I reminded myself of my reasons for not imbibing. For almost two years now, I've joyfully tuned out the siren's call. Reminiscing on the past year, and smiling at my progress, this one hang-up has mentally derailed me. What is it I'm feeling? Why am I feeling this NOW?


I wanted to drink so badly. Not because I wanted to FEEL drunk, per se. I just wanted to be a part of the fun. Ironically, feeling like an outsider, letting introversion take over, and shying away from the action are what led me to drink. My liquid courage gave me the confidence that I hadn't been able to find in myself. Being social IS one of my triggers, go figure. It wasn't until I began to dissect how I was feeling and WHAT I was feeling that my "AHA! Moment" happened.


Addiction is all in the brain. How we do it, when we do it, where and with who we do it is all tied to the addiction and our brain doesn't forget these details. In social settings, I NEEDED to drink. Being in a social setting where everyone has a drink in their hand and getting loose brings it all back. I want to be a part of the fun, and I can be, but consuming alcohol isn't an option. I undoubtedly miss being social and spending time with my friends, so I'm always finding ways to do that without liquor's intervention. I've also stopped shying away from being social. By practicing self-care, feeding my self-confidence, and giving myself the respect I deserve, I'm able to be around people comfortably and sober.


NEWS FLASH: We don't have to sacrifice our friends to stay sober. Setting boundaries and having tools to keep you from falling victim to relapse are the key!

In my moment of contemplation, I was reminded of Pink Cloud Syndrome. In early recovery, you're practically on Cloud 9 (amid the cravings and mental gymnastics). In this phase of recovery, you feel confident and pumped about sobriety. For me, it happened after I was on the other side of withdrawals. I actually felt like Superman. Nothing in the world can stop you when you're in the cloud. My whole outlook on life changed and remains so now.


However, once the pink cloud begins to dissipate and you're forced back to reality, it can be difficult to cope. The challenges of daily life and responsibilities start feeling heavy again and you're left wondering what the hell happened. For a while, I even started to question WHY I was sober. What was the point?


One of my top 5 mantras is "celebrate the little things". I truly had to find a reason to celebrate myself every day to hold on to the positive feelings I had in my pink cloud era. Giving yourself the love and celebration you deserve each day can propel you further. Keep in mind that having all the support you can get and self-care goes a very long way and is vital in recovery. Also, seeking the services of a mental health professional is never a bad idea if you need it.


Life in the pink cloud isn't sustainable because it's temporary. The good news is you can create a fulfilling life outside of it!

Sometimes, it's hard to keep in mind that I'm still a human with a very human disease. Cravings are a natural symptom of addiction. After going so long without alcohol, it can be surprising and disorienting when we start getting them. A lot of things change (for the better) when you get sober, but when the craving shows up it's ALWAYS the same. I'm so glad I have the tools to guide myself out of the brain fog that cravings cause. Reminding myself of why I don't want to drink and memories of being in an active addiction keeps me from relapsing.


It's vital to have tools at your disposal to keep from falling into the "I can handle one drink" trap. When we realize the cues and triggers that make us want to drink, we can begin to anticipate, prepare for and act against them. If I didn't have what I call a "mental anti-relapse kit", I'd be lost without a cause. Checking in with myself and how I'm feeling in the moment, identifying the root of why I'm feeling what I'm feeling, and having an exit strategy haven't steered me wrong yet. Self-soothing is really the name of the game.


Life is unpredictable. We don't know when the next trigger is going to happen. Having tools to counteract the cravings and intrusive thoughts is imperative as we navigate the world through a sober lens.





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