The Pink Cloud


The Pink Cloud is generally used to refer to a feeling somewhere between serenity and euphoria, often experienced by addicts and alcoholics in early recovery.

At a 12 Step retreat, I encountered an earnest middle-aged man who had been sober for a number of years. In recovery he had trained as an Anglican priest. He told how in his earliest days of sobriety, he had had a powerful spiritual experience at a 12 Step retreat and had returned to his home group, full of missionary zeal. He recounted how he had been devastated when his tale of spiritual discovery had received a lukewarm reaction from the old-timers in his group. He also told that the response from his home group members had sent him into a temporary tailspin, a disturbance only rectified when he was able to seek counsel from alumni of the retreat.

The Pink Cloud can be useful. It can give an alcoholics a taste of how good life can be without their drug of no choice. It can be interpreted as a signpost from God towards a better life, or, for those agnostically inclined, an injection of hope and confidence.

But Pink Clouds do not spell the necessary deep and effective spiritual experiences which have revolutionized our whole attitude toward life, toward our fellows and toward God’s universe. The Pink Cloud is far from the bulletproof position of neutrality which we are promised if we apply ourselves to the 12 Steps.

Our friend the priest might have asked himself the following question: If I had such a profound spiritual experience, then why did it take only take some less than enthusiastic responses from some unbelievers to turn my whole world upside down? 

Never confuse a glimpse of heaven with a deep and effective spiritual experience. Never confuse gazing at the map with putting one foot in front of the other. Bill Wilson’s early encounter with the divine at Winchester Cathedral in August 1918 was not enough to put him on the path and keep him there.

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