AddictionsMany 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. Maybe you have been told you have 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 problem?” or “Now is the time for change- but I don’t know where to start.”

How Much Is Too Much?

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. Although this certainly plays a role, 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. You can use or drink infrequently, or in much smaller quantities than your friends, and still have a problem!
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Where Do I Start?

Help starts here.

Be wary of psychotherapists and psychiatrists that do not have specialized training in substance abuse and addictions.  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!  You wouldn’t see a podiatrist for a heart problem.  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 help you.

Learn more about credentialing

Vanessa Ford has the training, certification, and expertise to really help you.
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Should I Abstain Altogether, or Learn About Ways To Moderate My Use?

This is something that Ms. Ford can help you decide.  For some people, habits, circumstances, or a certain set of friends may have lead you to drink or use more.  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 professional will help you begin to evaluate what factors have to 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, HIV diagnosis, or other illness- may be playing a role.  Ms. Ford is experienced in treating these underlying factors that may have lead to your over-use of alcohol or drugs to help you cope.

In addition, Ms. Ford is practiced in Moderation Management techniques.  These techniques involve a commitment to learning a new way of approaching and monitoring your drinking.

Learn more about Moderation Management

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 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.  12-step programs can be an additional source of support you may choose to pursue, in addition to professional counseling.
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I’m Already In 12-Steps, Why Should I Go To Therapy?

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 recovery supposed to offer more?  This is where a therapist can really help.  The 12-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.  Ms. Ford has 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.  She can also assist you if you are experiencing some doubts about your program, and need help getting back on track.
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I Don’t Have A Chemical Addiction, But I Feel I Am Addicted To Certain Behaviors.

Sex and any other pleasurable activity 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 usage, video games, shopping- often these kinds of behaviors feel good for a while, and then they take on a life of their own. Ms. Ford’s expertise in mental health and addictions 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 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. Ms. Ford 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.
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Concerned family member / partner / friend

Perhaps you are not the one who is suffering from addictive behaviors such as alcohol or drug use, or compulsive sexual activity, 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 addictions, their behavior may be taking a toll on your mental, emotional and spiritual health, and maybe having other unwanted consequences as well, such as increased financial strain or social embarrassment.

Working with a therapist certified and trained in 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 helpful to meet one-on-one. 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.

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.
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What If I Have A DUI?

Having one or several DUI convictions may be an indication you have more of a problem than you think.  Ms. Ford can assist you in identifying and resolving any drinking problems that may have to lead up to a DUI.  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.
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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.

Alcoholics Anonymous in Chicago Thousands of AA meetings available, including private, safe and confidential online options.

Narcotic Anonymous in Chicago NA is for any drug of abuse.

CODA Co-Dependents Anonymous meetings in Chicago help you recover from a relationship with an addict

ACoA ACoA is for adult children of alcoholic childhood homes

Crystal Meth Anonymous in Chicago CMA is an important part of recovery from Tina.

Cocaine Anonymous in Chicago This fellowship is specific to crack and cocaine.

Gay & Sober  Gay and lesbian inclusive 12-step AA meetings in Chicago

Marijuana Anonymous This 12-step program will help you get cannabis addiction under control

Al-Anon in Chicago  Al-Anon is for partners, friends and family members for alcoholics and other addicts.

Overeaters Anonymous This 12-step program can help you with binge eating

Underearners Anonymous Learn more about your unhealthy relationship to money and earning

SCA in Chicago: We recommend this option for culturally sensitive, LGBT inclusive options

Sex Addicts Anonymous

Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous

Sexaholics Anonymous

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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

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