Are you a magic fan? Do you enjoy marveling at illusions created by the likes of David Copperfield or Penn & Teller? Lots of people do, of course—and there is plenty of research that explores why that might be the case. It can be fun to be fooled by a talented magician, and a good trick can awaken our sense of possibility and wonder. But for a person in recovery from a substance use disorder or other addictions there are two conditions that can feel positively magical in the moment, but which are instead dirty tricks your mind plays on you that could end up upending your recovery.
Let’s take a look at these tricks so that you won’t be fooled.
Trick Number One: The Pink Cloud
When you first regain your sobriety, you might well feel absolutely amazing. And why not? Getting sober is undeniably a reason to celebrate. You have done the hard work, and a feeling of euphoria is a natural result of accomplishing this important goal.
In some cases, the feelings of joy that come with getting sober can shift into a feeling of invincibility. The euphoria serves as a sort of replacement for the high you used to get from drugs or alcohol, and it may feel like nothing could ever tempt you to turn back to drugs or alcohol.
And that might cause you to let your guard down in the same way a good magician can get you to look left while the important stuff is happening to your right.
Because here’s the thing: the pink cloud tends to dissipate like theatrical haze. And when it does, you might find yourself dealing with cravings and anxiety and more—and that feeling of invincibility will not be there to prop you up.
Our advice? Enjoy the pink cloud if you experience it. But at the same time make sure you are following your plan for sobriety—attending 12-Step (or other recovery program) meetings; avoiding people and places that will tempt you to drink or use drugs; building healthy habits related to exercise, sleep, and diet; leaning on a support network of supportive family and friends; and more. That’s the trick to staying sober—while you are experiencing the pink cloud and afterwards.
Trick Number Two: Substitute Addictions
You have probably seen an illusion in which a magician’s assistant is suddenly—and apparently magically—replaced by the actual magician. You could call it a substitution trick in which one person takes the place of another in less than a blink, making it seem as though a transformation occurred.
A substitute addiction is similar. You have set one addiction aside only to have it replaced by another addiction—one you might not immediately recognize for what it is.
For example, it is a good idea to get plenty of exercise when you are in recovery. But for some people, that commitment to healthy activity can shift into an obsessive relationship with exercise. When that happens, exercise has become a substitute addiction.
Work can serve as another example of a substitute addiction. When you reclaim your sobriety, you may be excited to get back to work—and you may feel like you have a lot to prove because you almost certainly were not at your best when you were drinking or using drugs. So maybe you start working late most nights or staying at your desk during lunch or coming in on the weekends. In moderation, that isn’t necessarily a problem. In fact, it might be a good thing as you work to rebuild the trust of your coworkers and boss. But if you find that you are always the first to arrive and the last to leave or that you are always thinking about work during your personal time, there’s a good chance that work has developed into a substitute addiction.
The trick to avoiding substitute addictions is to remain vigilant about the role any given activity is playing in your life. If you determine that a new addiction has taken the place of drugs or alcohol in your life, it is important to discuss the situation with your sponsor, a therapist, or with an addiction specialist to determine the best way forward.
Evidence and Expertise Rather Than Abracadabra
At French Creek Recovery Center in Meadville, PA, we don’t really use magic to help people regain their sobriety. Instead, we bring to bear evidence-based practices supported by our years of experience and our commitment to compassionate care. You can’t make your substance use disorder disappear with a snap of your fingers or by intoning a magic word. But you can regain and maintain your sobriety if you get the help you need to get your recovery journey underway.