Addicts experience cravings as a normal part of daily life. They get them when the drugs or alcohol they rely on to feel normal are metabolized and their brains and bodies start to experience the physical and psychological pangs of withdrawal, though most don’t recognize it as detox because they’re in deep denial.
Late-stage addicts get these cravings as soon as they wake up (or come to) every morning. Of course, detox-caused cravings can happen at any time of day if an addict goes too long without using. Then the baseline of intoxication required by ever-increasing tolerance — the brain’s “new normal” — is no longer satisfied.
Those in earlier stages of addiction may not need to drink or use drugs as soon as they wake up. Some can make it through most of the day without using, waiting until they get off work, for example, before they take their first drink or drug. But eventually, they pick up that first one because they need the solution they know comes with it, alleviating the anxiety doing without causes. But again, they may not experience this as craving. Rather, they may feel any number of negative feelings like anger, resentment of disappointment. Perhaps paradoxically, success, boredom, or any other feeling that changes the pitch of their moods can trigger a craving. That’s why addicts “pick up” both when they feel good and when they feel bad.
It’s the emotional memory of the relief drugs bring — that drugs are the solution — that has addicts convinced they need them to medicate their way through the day. Once they’ve taken the first drink or drug, however, they experience the loss of control that characterizes addiction: they can’t stop once they’ve started.
After the first drink or drug it often doesn’t feel like a conscious craving. It can feel like defeat, a realization that having taken the first one, they’ve broken a promise to themselves or others that they won’t use that day. “What the fuck,” they think in frustration as they give up on the day. They may feel bafflement about how it’s happened again. But once they’ve crossed the first-drug threshold, their whole beings seem to cry out for more. And they often feel a kind of relief that their mental battle not to succumb to drugs again has been put off for yet another day.