Psychological Self-Help

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Experienced people in Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), Overeaters
Anonymous (OA), and Emotions Anonymous (EA) say the first step
towards recovery is to admit you are powerless over alcohol, food,
emotions, or whatever. Then, their 12-step program basically says, (l)
abstain (totally in the case of alcohol) by asking for help from friends
(in AA or OA or EA who have been in the same situation) and from a
Higher Power, (2) admit your "defects of character" and the wrongs
you've done, and (3) make amends. AA is often considered the best
available treatment for alcoholism, so use it if you need it.
Interestingly, AA has a reputation for being successful in spite of little
or no outcome research. Unfortunately, AA opposes research
(members aren't supposed to disclose what happens at AA meetings)
and doesn't directly teach self-control methods. It is known that many
people go to AA only a few times and others backslide after hundreds
of AA sessions. One study of 90 addicts found that they had, on
average, attended 586 AA sessions before relapsing (Chiauzzi, 1989).
That is an amazing amount of "treatment" to be followed by failure.
So, AA is not a perfect miracle cure. If AA added more self-control
beliefs and procedures, especially relapse prevention, to its program, it
might be more effective. Only research can tell us. See more
references concerning alcoholism at the end of the chapter. 
There is also evidence that overweight people adjust their
metabolism as they reduce their intake of food so that they tend to
stay about the same weight, called their "biological destiny" (Bennett
& Gurin, l98?). If that is the case, losing weight may be very hard to
do if you have a genetic tendency to be heavy or to crave sweets, etc.
It is believed that weight loss efforts work best the first time you try to
diet; thereafter, the body loses weight more slowly but gains it back
much more rapidly. Also, over-weight people produce more insulin
than thin people when they see food and that increases hunger pangs.
Heavy people respond more to external cues--smells, sight of dessert,
etc. All this (plus the emotions pushing us to eat) makes it hard to lose
weight. As most people know, our metabolism is a function of our
activity level, so losing weight without exercise is especially hard to
No matter what the physiological and emotional processes are and
how difficult it is to reduce drinking or overeating, the addict still has
the problem of how to stop a harmful habit. Should he/she get
professional medical help, psychological help, give up trying to do the
impossible alone and turn to God, join a self-help group, take
antabuse or diet pills, go to a Mental Health Center or an addiction
treatment center, talk to friends, read and try to help him/herself or
what? My answer again is, "Try all kinds of treatment until something
Is it harder for some people to overcome bad habits than others?
Since this is like the question "Do I see blue the same as you do?" we
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