Hey You, Get Off My Pink Cloud

By Carlos Herrera 10/07/12

Some alcoholics (not just newcomers) are so dramatic that they call good moods “pink clouds.” And I’m right there with them, sounding the bell. 

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Pretty in pink Photo via

There's a lot of talk in AA meetings about the pink cloud, a state that is generally defined as seemingly irrational happiness in a time of despair—usually among newcomers, but not always. It's thought of as a breath of fresh air or a slow release of endorphins and dopamine into your brain. Most people talk about a pink cloud like they are surprised by it because their life is in such a well of shit at the time. But here’s my analysis of the pink cloud, based on hundreds of hours of evidence: everyone in AA is super fucking dramatic, which means the pink cloud, a lot of the time, is an illusion.

At any moment, a member of AA can give you a convincing argument that their life is suicidally bad with no hope for the future. Conversely, for this person to feel good require nothing short of a miracle. In fact, that the feeling can only be compared to sitting on a cloud—a pink cloud, no less. Not by any sort of blaring sunset or smog effect—I mean the cloud itself is actually fucking pink. That's how good this person is feeling. They are floating on a pink cloud. 

Oh, and I can 100% relate. I, too, am super dramatic. I have experienced good moments in times when my life has fallen apart. I have experienced good moments during good times. It usually comes from a feeling that everything is taken care of for a while or that there is something good to look forward to. As much as I want to discount anything somebody says in an AA meeting, I do actually relate to the simple good feeling early in recovery—or, quite honestly, during anytime of recovery.

That's what a pink cloud is: a breath of fresh air between cigarettes, an extra life even when you’re already on your ninth.

When I first got sober, I was certain that there was no logical way my life would repair itself or that I would even live until the end of that spring. But I did. I remember meeting a guy that I'm still friends with to this day, eight days into my current sobriety. We made each other laugh and texted during the day while I was delivering packages and mail all over Hollywood for a public relations firm. One day, I was in awful daytime traffic on Wilshire and I called my new friend from AA. Earlier that day this assistant who I hated was told she was going to be promoted and I got super jealous and annoyed because she was the ultimate C word—like Hollywood-sign big C word. I wanted her job and to send her packing back to the Midwest because her Robertson Boulevard boutique attire wasn't fooling me. I called my buddy and he talked me off an emotional ledge and I felt better—like music in slow motion with a sexy, raspy, smoker female voice singing over it better. I was literally lifted from a probable relapse, a child-like lashing out at work, failed assistant sabotage and the list goes on because of a few things he said. I was sitting on a pink cloud in a Ford Explorer in a mile of traffic at the border of Beverly Hills and who the fuck cared. It felt so good to not have to listen to myself. And it was really only just the first time I had an experience I would come to know well. 

When I got sober the first time in the fall of 2006 in Houston, I was in a pink cloud almost instantly because I immediately felt relief from not drinking or doing drugs. I worked the 12 steps, played basketball in the courtyard at my rehab and read the sports and entertainment sections of the Houston Chronicle every morning. It was great. When I got out of treatment and was driving to AA meetings deep in the fourth largest city in America during the only time of year when the temperature dropped below 70 degrees, life was good. I was a college dropout with a nice car and burned CD's. At the time, I was happy. No drugs or alcohol. My parents were on my good side and I was ready to do nothing for a little bit. That was my first pink cloud. 

When I got sober the second (and current) time in Los Angeles, I heard people talking about pink clouds. And I haven't stopped hearing about them during my career as a member of Alcoholics Anonymous. There was a guy who got sober a week before me and he was super happy all of the time and it annoyed the shit out of me. I had resentment after resentment against him and he made me raise my hand when the leader asked if there was anybody there with under 30 days. I always raised my hand after that and wanted to kill him. He was on a fucking pink cloud if there ever was one. His life didn't look that good to me—it actually looked horrible—but he was happy. I sponsored a teenager in Hollywood for a little bit and after several months, he just looked happier. He told me he was on a pink cloud. I remember sitting at a coffee shop off Cahuenga and asking him about it. He went on to explain that his life was finally good and that it was getting better all the time. I've also had sponsees describe pink clouds as simple things deep into their sobriety like getting a girl's phone number or having a good day at work. I didn’t try to tell them that to a lot of people, this would just be called a good day. 

But I do not think pink clouds are bullshit. If I'm in a bad mood I can think yours, specifically, is, sure. The most recent meeting I went to was a depression-fest and a woman in the corner shared about how she was all good and that she supposedly always works on herself, every day. Is she on a pink cloud? Maybe. Is the new guy that always wears a backpack on one because he filled out a job application correctly? You fucking bet. And that's great because without pink clouds—or as anybody else on earth calls them, good moods—there would be no hope for alcoholics early in recovery or in recovery at all. Without hope, what's the point in walking? Fuck faith. I need that hope at times to prove to me that there's a way out. And that's what a pink cloud is: a breath of fresh air between cigarettes, an extra life even when you’re already on your ninth. If my friend didn't make me feel better in traffic or explain that what I was feeling was bullshit, that life was just weighing extra heavy at that moment and it always balances back out, I wouldn't have gotten through. That's a fact. Step work and "talking it out" give me clear vision to see the light at the end of the tunnel. And even though I look down constantly, I always sort of know it's there. That's what a handful of Hollywood degenerates taught me—that what I need is what I'll get and that what I needed is what I actually wanted all along.

“I just need a couple of good moods to act as extra bullets to get me through this fight,” the alcoholic said dramatically. 

Carlos Herrera is a Los Angeles-based stand-up comedian and writer. A former entertainment assistant from the the age of 19, he has performed at The Hollywood Improv and The Comedy Store, amongst others. He just wrapped a docu-comedy pilot for MTV and can be seen late night (in the back) at comedy clubs in Hollywood. He also wrote about seduction in sobriety for The Fix.

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