We’ve talked before about how the trauma bonds we develop with narcissists affect the same part of the brain as any other addiction. We are literally addicted to our toxic relationships, and that is why it’s so much harder to end a relationship with a narcissist than anyone else.
Just like any addict, we need to recover from our toxic relationships and gain control over our addiction.
There’s one phenomenon that early in recovery puts us at risk, and if we fall for it, we will end up “relapsing” and find ourselves falling for hoovering from the narcissist – or worse, chasing after them.
It is called the pink cloud, and it is a term that is used to describe the feeling of elation that many addicts and alcoholics feel shortly after detoxing and moving into sobriety.
They feel excited and hopeful in ways they didn’t before, and things seem to be moving in the right direction for the first time maybe ever.
There is only one problem with the “pink cloud” syndrome – and that is quite simply that it can make people dangerously overconfident in themselves and their recovery.
This overconfidence can sadly lead to a relapse.
It doesn’t happen to everyone, but it happens to many in narcissistic abuse recovery as well.
For example, when you first leave a narcissist, you can start to see the possibilities of a life without constant control and codependency.
You feel like you’ve overcome your trauma bonding and you have all of this hope – you feel like you’re on top of the world!
With all of this new goodness coming your way, you start to think this is how you’re going to feel all the time. Like life has just turned on a dime and the only way to go is up.
It is an amazing feeling!
And while I want to tell you to hold on to it as long as you can, I also want to be realistic with you and let you know that it won’t last forever.
You’re still human and you’ll still have bad days. In fact, I would venture to say, you may find yourself feeling a sudden drop from the cloud, and you’ll feel like you’ve crashed back to earth in a most undignified way.
Reality will set back in and you’ll realize that even without the toxic person in your life, there are still difficulties and hard times.
You may find yourself stuck in a deep depression if you’re not careful – remember, you weren’t allowed to show your feelings completely with the narcissist, so you may have sort of numbed out in order to get through it.
Letting go of the narcissist and working on your healing will require you, at some point, to mourn the relationship and work through all the hard feelings that go with it.
When you’ve lived in this constant state of control and numbness for so long, you might find that “normal” – you know, living without someone holding you down and without someone always sort of “managing” your every move – it might feel like you’re high on life.
You can’t even recall, if you ever knew, what real life feels like – and you have most likely forgotten how it feels to deal with your emotions.
It is good to feel happy and excited – it can help you to start to heal and make intentional choices. Don’t get me wrong.
But be aware that the pink cloud will eventually dissipate and you’ll need to keep pushing through the hard parts. You might think you don’t need help and you can just start living.
And I think you CAN just start living – but you must also stick with your support groups, and/or your coach and/or therapist. Don’t assume that “pink cloud” means all done healing.
Here are some tips to help you get through the hard parts of the dissipating pink cloud.
1. Focus on finding balance. In the relationship, all emotions are extreme. You deal with the highest highs and the lowest lows. After the relationship, start to focus on calmness and releasing the need to feel “extreme” emotions in order to feel normal.
2. Try to steer clear of the narcissist and places you know they will be. Find a new route to work, or go to a different grocery store/bank, etc. Reduce the temptation of going back when you create new ways to do your business.
3. Create new routines and traditions. After you are away from the narcissist, start creating new routines and traditions right away. Do things differently than before and when it comes to holidays and celebrations, keep the stuff you love, but release the traditions that don’t fit anymore – and in either case, add in new stuff and new ways to do things.
4. Do not fool yourself into thinking you can be friends with this person or just see them a little bit. Addiction is addiction. You wouldn’t just take one drink if you were a recovering alcoholic, right? The same principle applies to our recovery from toxic relationships.
5. Get support from a group, a coach or a therapist, at least. And stick with it. Don’t let the pink cloud push you away – at least not for too long.
6. Watch for triggers and have a plan in place for when one hits you.
7. Keep your eye on the prize – know why you’re doing all of this. Creating the life you want and deserve.
Angela Atkinson is a Certified Life Coach and the author of more than 20 books on narcissism, narcissistic abuse recovery and related topics. A recognized expert on narcissism and narcissistic personality disorder who has studied and written extensively on narcissistic relationships since 2006, Atkinson was inspired to begin her work as a result of having survived toxic relationships of her own.
Atkinson offers trauma-informed coaching and has certifications in life coaching, level 2 therapeutic model, CBT coaching, integrative wellness coaching, and NLP. She is a certified trauma support coach and certified family trauma professional. She also has a professional PTSD counseling certification. Her mission is to help those who have experienced the emotional and mental devastation that comes with narcissistic abuse in these incredibly toxic relationships to (re)discover their true selves, stop the gaslighting and manipulation and move forward into their genuine desires – into a life that is exactly what they choose for themselves.
Along with her solution-focused life coaching experience, Atkinson’s previous career in journalism and research helps her to offer both accurate and understandable information for survivors of abuse in a simple-to-understand way that helps to increase awareness in the narcissistic abuse recovery community. Atkinson founded QueenBeeing.com Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Support, the SPANily Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Support Groups and the Life Makeover Academy. In her life coaching practice, Atkinson’s clients enjoy her personalized approach that allows and encourages them to become the best possible versions of themselves and to succeed in doing what they love most. She offers individual and group coaching for victims and survivors of narcissistic abuse at NarcissisticAbuseRecovery.Online and NarcissismSupportCoach.com.