Substance Abuse

How Much Is Too Much?

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. Maybe you have been told you have Bipolar disorder or ADHD, 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.”

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.

Do you find that you need to drink (or use more drugs) to get the same effect that you used to?

Perhaps you used to have one glass of wine with dinner to unwind, but now it is two or three; or perhaps you used to have a joint once in a while, but now you find yourself not having any fun or feeling “normal” unless you are high all weekend.  Perhaps you used to use cocaine once in a while to enhance your sexual experiences, but now you can’t imagine sex without it. Do you experience unpleasant effects the day after a heavy drinking or drug use experience, such as headaches, nausea, rapid heartbeat, severe fatigue, tremors in your hands, anxiety, increased depression, edginess? Perhaps you even take a drink or use to take that edge off.

Do you ever go out with the intention of “just having a couple,” or tell yourself you’ll be home in a few hours, and wind up spending much more money or time than you initially intended?

Perhaps your significant other has begun to complain about broken promises; or perhaps you’ve begun to tell yourself, “Well, I was having fun! So what if I said I’d be home in bed by midnight,” or “My landlord never fixes up anything, so why should I pay the rent on time?

Have you told yourself in the past that you were going to start cutting back, or spend less time drinking or using, but you never really succeeded?

Perhaps your self-esteem has begun to suffer; you just don’t feel in control anymore.

If you critically evaluated how you spend your time, does it seem like more and more time is devoted to trying to hook up, partying, or hanging around the house recovering from the day before?

Perhaps you’ve begun to give up on things that used to be important to you, such as projects, music/art, friends and family who don’t like to party, church/synagogue, meditating/yoga, reading, exercise routine.

Have you begun to wonder more and more lately if your drug or alcohol use is actually worsening that depressed or anxious feeling you keep trying to get your doctor/partner/family/friends to help you with?

Perhaps you feel this is a real Catch-22. You know you aren’t supposed to drink on antidepressant medication or that weed is causing you to avoid socializing with anyone anymore, but in the moment it is the only thing that helps you feel better, or just “normal.”

Or perhaps you feel so organized and in-control when you drink or use regularly- you start a lot of projects, you take on a lot of extra work on the job, you’re always running round doing things, but you just don’t seem to have anything to show for it.

Do you have a history of DUIs or other legal troubles?

Perhaps you haven’t been arrested, but you feel your use is putting you at risk for an accident or something worse, or maybe you’ve already broken or sprained a bone while intoxicated; or perhaps your finances are suffering because of the money you’ve been spending or because you just can’t seem to put forth the effort to budget or save anymore.

Have you gotten into a lot of arguments lately?

Perhaps you’re so sick of hearing about what you’re not doing right, especially with all the stress you are under, or maybe you just seem to be angry and irritable with total strangers lately, such as getting into arguments at the check-out lane.

Do you feel like you keep “messing up?”

Perhaps your boss has written you up, your partner is talking about taking a vacation without you, your kids are constantly whining, or your professor is NOT going to give you another extension. No one seems to understand: This isn’t what you envision for yourself.  It’s just the only way you know how to get by right now.

Where Do I Start?

Help starts here.  In Illinois, therapists and counselors holding a certification in addictions issued from the state regulatory board such as, CADC, 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.

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 in usually recommended.  As a chronic condition, you will have to learn new ways of thinking, feeling and behaving to help you maintain your recovery.  A 12-step program can be an additional source of support you may choose to pursue, in addition to professional counseling.

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.  We 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 program, and need help getting back on track.

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.

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 sexual chat.  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 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. We 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. We can 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.

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 may be having other unwanted consequences as well, such as increased financial strain or social embarrassment.

Working with a psychologist 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, you do not have to suffer alone. Therapy will help you regain control and peace over your own life.

We offer help for addicted individuals and their families to understand the emotional difficulties of addiction and begin to make needed changes to function again. Where the addicted individual isn’t willing to participate in change.  We can work with family members to understand how they have been affected and begin to heal emotionally.  Addiction, whatever form it takes, is a treatable illness. People can recover. Families and individuals can grow again.

Doctors within our practice who focus on Substance Abuse:

Locations

St Charles | 405 Illinois Avenue, Ste. 2C

Oak Brook | 1200 Harger Road, Ste. 220

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