Addictions Therapy: Binge Drinking, Drug Abuse, Behavioral Compulsions & Beyond

If You Have a Problem and You Don’t Know Where to Start, We Can Help.

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Many people drink alcohol as an enjoyable part of a good dinner, or may even use recreational drugs from time-to-time. However, maybe you have begun to ask yourself: “How much is too much?” Perhaps you have begun to drink more or use drugs to cope with stress, depression, or anxiety, or out of habit or circumstance. Prior to seeking therapy, clients of my mental health practice may begin to ask “Am I binge drinking?” or “Do I have a drinking problem?”

Not to mention the Coronavirus pandemic, and related stress. Trauma experiences also often lead to self-medication. Maybe you have been told you have depression, anxiety, Bipolar disorder, or AD/HD, but you really have no idea what that means, or how your alcohol or drug use may play a role. Perhaps you have begun to think to yourself, “Do I have a drinking problem?” or “Now is the time for a change, but I don’t know where to start.”

Help starts here.

Behavioral addictions and compulsions can feel similarly out-of-control. If you have hoarding tendencies, or Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), you know what addictive behavior and mental obsessions feel like. Or maybe you are asking yourself, “Do I have OCD?”

Self-medication for difficult emotions, painful relationships, and traumatic experiences take many forms. Binge eating, binge/purge cycles (such as bulimia), compulsive shopping online to give you a quick fix, constantly checking your cellphone, video game, and other cyber addictions- all of these can quickly take on a life of its’ own. You might wonder, “Am I addicted to my phone?”

My counseling practice on the northside of Chicago is geared towards you getting your life back. We have many tools such as EMDR, art therapy, cognitive-behavioral approaches, and other proven techniques to help you heal. The LGBTQ community is always welcomed into our safe spaces.

Focused therapy will explore where these compulsive behaviors started, and offer tools to help you stop them in their tracks.

Frequently Asked Questions

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Q: How much is too much alcohol? Am I binge drinking?

A: This concept is often misunderstood, even by professionals such as doctors. A lot of people have the misconception that a problem with alcohol or other substances is defined by how much, or how often you drink or use. Maybe you have thought to yourself, “If I switch to beer, I’ll get my drinking problem under control,” or you see how commonplace cannabis dispensaries are getting, and you smoking up every night doesn’t seem like a big deal.

Although the frequency of use and increasing amounts certainly play a role in noticing if you have a problem, in truth, it is really how you use or drink that is far more important than the amount or the frequency with which you drink. Are you self-medicating? Do you feel out-of-control? You can use or drink infrequently, or in much smaller quantities than your friends, and still have a problem!

Q: Where do I start?

A: Many psychotherapists in Chicago advertise that they can help you with addictions or binge drinking. They may not have specialized training in substance abuse and addictions, or much experience offering tools.  These professionals certainly have a sincere desire to help their clients, but often do not have the credentials or training to be of genuine assistance to you.  They may have the same stereotypes and assumptions about alcohol and other substance abuse as their clients!

In Illinois, therapists and counselors holding a certification in addictions issued from the state regulatory board (IAODAPCA), such as a CADC, CRADC, CSADC, CMADC, MISA I, and MISA II are the only credentialed professionals in the field with the background, training, and experience to really understand your unique circumstances and begin to make sense of them.

Ms. Ford has the training, certification, and expertise to really assist you. In addition, I vet all of my contracted therapists, and even if they do not have an addictions-specific certification, I ensure that they have extensive experience working with clients who suffer from obsessive thinking patterns, and compulsive or addictive behaviors, such as binge eating disorders. We have a wealth of concrete tools to offer you. You can trust that we know how to help.

Learn more about credentialing on the Illinois Certification Board, Inc. site.

Q: Should I abstain altogether, or learn about ways to moderate my alcohol or drug use?

A: Help starts here.

This is something that Ms. Ford and her contracted therapists can help you decide.  For some people, habits, circumstances, or a certain set of friends may have led you to drink or use more.  Stressful life circumstances can lead to changes in your drinking patterns. At times we may begin to get so stressed and overwhelmed that we feel we are on auto-pilot and lose a sense of mindfulness and purpose.

Beginning to work with a mental health professional will help you begin to evaluate what factors have lead to this change in your behavior, and what you can do to regain a sense of control.  Sometimes stress, a recent loss, arguments with a significant other, or another condition- such as anxiety, depression, or chronic medical condition- may be playing a role.  Ms. Ford and her associate counselors are experienced in treating these underlying factors that may have led to your over-use of alcohol, drugs, or addictive behaviors to help you cope.

In addition, Ms. Ford’s practice is familiar with Moderation Management techniques.  This approach involves a commitment to learning a new way of thinking about and monitoring your drinking. These methods will help you curb binge drinking.

Learn more about Moderation Management on Moderation.org

Q: I know I have a drinking problem. Am I an alcoholic? Or drug addicted?

A: Addiction and alcoholism is truly a disease.  Like a disease, it is a chronic and progressive process that will inevitably get worse, not better.

For those folks properly diagnosed by a licensed behavioral health professional as being genuinely dependent on a substance, total abstinence is usually recommended.  As a chronic condition, you will have to learn new ways of thinking, feeling, and behaving to help you maintain your recovery.

Twelve-step programs can be an additional source of support you may choose to pursue alongside your therapy services, in addition to professional counseling. If the 12-steps don’t appeal to you, we can offer alternative recovery options, to help you achieve your goal of abstinence.

Dual-diagnosis issues may be at play. This is a fancy way of saying, you may need to get your mental health symptoms under control first before you can expect to make a change around your drinking or drug use patterns.

We understand dual-diagnosis issues. Therapy is not designed to pressure you, we are here to support you in gaining strides towards reducing anxiety, treating depression, and healing from trauma. The progress you experience in these areas can later be used to assist you in curbing your addictive behavior patterns. Sometimes we need to take a first-things-first approach.

Q: I'm already in 12-Steps, why should I go to therapy?

A: In some cases, sometimes even a Sponsor or the fellowship may imply that the 12-steps are all you need to get better.  But you know something is still wrong: you’ve given up using, but you just don’t feel any better!  Wasn’t addiction recovery supposed to offer more?  This is where a mental health therapist can really help.

The twelve steps are a terrific first step, but sometimes there may be more factors at work that are more complex than just stopping your drinking or using drugs.  The same is true for other compulsive behavior recovery, such as shopping addiction, cyber addiction, binge eating, and so forth.

Our clients who suffer from a traumatic background such as childhood abuse need professional help. Ms. Ford and her therapy associates have extensive experience in counseling clients who are in recovery and can help you identify and begin to work on issues that have been holding you back.  We can also assist you if you are experiencing some doubts about your 12-step program, and need help getting back on track.

Alternatives are also available and encouraged.

Q: I don't have a chemical addiction. Am I addicted to certain behaviors?

A: Many pleasurable activities such as shopping, eating and sex make us feel good.  Our bodies are wired that way!  But for some people, these behaviors have begun to become so frequent, they are compulsive or addictive in nature.

Compulsive over-eating, binging and purging, picking or hair-pulling, compulsive “checking” behaviors (frequent in OCD), internet addiction, video games, overeating, shopping- often these kinds of behaviors feel good for a while, and then they take on a life of their own. Ms. Ford and her associate counselors in Chicago have expertise in mental health and addictions. We will help you address this problem.

Sometimes people seek help from a counselor because their fantasy life has begun to feel out-of-control.  Perhaps you aren’t acting on your fantasies, but you have noticed that you’re spending more and more time on the internet searching for your favorite kind of pornography or in sex chats.  You may become worried about acting out on these fantasies, or acting out on them again (such as hiring an escort and exposing yourself to disease, or being unfaithful to a significant other).  Or perhaps you are just concerned about how frequent your pornography consumption has become- eating away at the weekend and recreational time, money spent on membership fees or at strip clubs, distracting you at inappropriate times, risking trust in your relationship, or web surfing at work in a way that may be putting your job at risk.

You are worried you may have a sexual compulsion or pornography addiction.

Sometimes people who are abusing drugs or alcohol find that they also begin to have sex in a way that feels out-of-control. Whether you find yourself “abusing” sex while intoxicated, or on its’ own, Ms. Ford and her contracted therapists can assist you in learning how to regain control over your behaviors.

These principles can also be applied to help you with any obsessional thinking or behavior that no longer feels 100% voluntary. Therapy will help you in two ways: By giving you concrete tools to help you with your day-to-day approach to this issue, and by addressing the underlying reasons why you are seeking this kind of experience.

Q: I'm a concerned family member/partner/friend. Is my loved on binge drinking or abusing drugs? Do they have a drinking problem? Or maybe they have an addiction problem?

A: Perhaps you are not the one who is suffering from addictive behaviors such as alcohol or drug use, or compulsive behavior, but you can identify a loved one in the descriptions above. As a concerned family member, partner, or friend, you may notice that your loved one’s choices are causing you increased stress. If you are involved with someone who is suffering from alcoholism or behavioral addictions, their behavior may be taking a toll on your mental, emotional and spiritual health. You may be having other unwanted consequences as well, such as increased financial strain or social embarrassment.

Working with experienced therapists familiar with addictions counseling can help you improve your sense of well-being, as you learn healthy ways to set boundaries, improve your stress management, and learn the differences between what it means to care for someone versus enable their unhealthy behavior. This counseling may take place as a family or couples therapy session, or you may find it most helpful to meet one-on-one. Most of our clients benefit from a private, confidential space to begin to explore concerns. You may even ask yourself “Am I Codependent?”

In some cases, you may want to discuss your options for planning an intervention.  Ms. Ford is available to walk you through this option.  Please call her directly for more details.

Even if your loved one refuses to seek help for themselves, you do not have to suffer alone. Therapy will help you regain control and peace over your own life.

Q: What if I have a DUI?

A: Having one or several DUI convictions may be an indication you have more of a problem than you think.  Ms. Ford and her associate counselors can assist you in identifying and resolving any drinking problems or drug use that may have to lead up to a DUI, DWI or reckless driving charge.

For specific assistance with resolving court matters or reinstating your license, however, you must pursue a formal evaluation through a DUI provider listed through the courts and certified by the Illinois Department of Human Services. We do not provide any court evaluations or any formal reports for use in court proceedings in my practice, of any kind.

Resources

Our team is your dedicated partner in facilitating alcoholism and drug addiction recovery. Behavioral health addictions and compulsions as well as codependent relationships also deserve support and validation. We want to understand how your community supports fit in with our counseling work together. In some instances, we may recommend community-based programs and services, to assist in your efforts to heal in therapy.

12-Step Meetings

Alcoholics Anonymous began with a meeting of two people in 1935. They began the twelve steps and twelve traditions that have fostered so many sister programs around the world. Their methods are tried and true, and steeped in decades of tradition.

Each 12-step meeting is founded on a commitment to anonymity, ensuring your privacy and confidentiality. The 12-step meetings do not affiliate with outside programs, or even one another, so they never run the risk of getting adulterated with marketing tactics or swayed by outside commercial or political influences.

Each 12-step meeting that you attend is totally independent from any other 12-step meeting. Volunteer positions help run the meetings, which often rent space for nominal dues from community spaces such as hospitals and church basements.

Some “Alano” clubs have rented space from a landlord who has generously donated the space for community use, for a cheap rental agreement. There are never any dues for twelve step membership and participation is always free.

AA is not a cult. It is a community-based program that the research has shown is far more effective than any other professional substance abuse detox program in establishing and maintaining long-term abstinence from drugs and alcohol.

Although the old-fashioned language and seemingly “religious” influences sometimes give newcomers pause, upon closer inspection we find that the twelve steps respect all viewpoints and have continued to grow into the programs that help millions of people worldwide.

The twelve traditions remain intact for historical context, while the recovery community philosophy continues to mature in inclusive ways.

If you are on the fence and not sure what to expect, we recommend trying an “open” meeting, where you can listen passively and see if the program is right for you. Newcomers should expect that they will be offered a packet of educational material and an offer of a phone list to call other members if you wish, but there is never any pressure to join.

No one will call you or bother you when you try out a 12-step meeting. You initiate contact when you participate in the twelve steps, including reaching out to your chosen Sponsor for help. Participation is always your choice. You can drop out or re-join whenever you wish. No one is going to judge or pressure you.

Your Chicago therapist would love to process your new recovery experiences with you, so you find a fit for your ongoing lifestyle goals. And if the twelve step programs are not for you, we will work with you to develop mindfulness tools and healthy habits that support desired change. We respect your preferences.

Other Recovery Community Resources

The 12-steps are not for everyone. We respect your personal choice and spiritual (or secular) leanings, in finding a recovery program that feels right. There is no right or wrong in your path towards healing. We do not endorse any specific program, but simply want to offer you choices to find the approach that is going to work for you.

  • Smart Recovery — Smart Recovery is not a 12-step program but can be a good alternative for folks who do not relate to the 12-steps
  • Moderation Management — Moderation Management will teach you new ways to approach binge drinking, so you can accomplish your own personal goals around alcohol consumption.  Get your drinking problem under control
  • Refuge Recovery —  Refuge Recovery is a Buddhist-inspired recovery program that offers an alternative to traditional 12-step meetings in Chicago
  • Recovery Dharma Chicago — Recovery Dharma Chicago is a Buddhist approach to healing from addictions and codependency
  • The Rec Room — The Rec Room on Chicago’s northside provides a diverse, inclusionary space for the LGBTQ community on Chicago’s northside, for those in 12-step recovery
  • The New Town Alano Club — The New Town Alano Club offers a safe space for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender folks in 12-step recovery on the northside of Chicago