Author：Elizabeth Espindola Halpern
There is a tendency to assign responsibility for the act of drinking alcohol to the drinkers. The common sense leads many people and even professionals to blame them for their frequent relapses, misuses, and abuses. Modern society expects that alcoholics resist the temptation to have another sip and remain sober, overcoming the magnetism of the beverages that surround them. In effect, the focus is mainly directed to these individuals. The predominant point of view among families, friends, therapists, and also the alcohol users is that the “problem” resides in the “disease”/”disorder” of those “bad drinkers”; thus, the “solution” or “cure” would depend on their tenacity to suppress the craving for this substance, as well as opportunities to drink.
As a result, psychotherapy usually tries to help patients to achieve sobriety by encouraging them to review their behaviors, lifestyles, values, and to understand their weakness, distresses, problems that made them choose alcohol as a way out.
Yet, a study conducted by the PhD in Mental Health and Commander of the Brazilian Navy, Elizabeth Halpern, with military patients treated at the Center for Chemical Dependency demonstrated a different facet of the alcoholism issue. The deeply rooted tradition to drink alcohol on board was reported by these men.
Gradually, it became clear that this organization also played an important role in this scenario. In fact, based on the military patients’ interviews, the Brazilian Navy displays an ambivalent position towards the matter of drinking during the working journey.
While the Disciplinary Regulation prohibits inebriation, drinking can be stimulated depending on the command. The majority of the statements of these patients revealed that naval authorities disregard the harm effects of the distribution of alcohol to accomplish hard tasks or to celebrate and party, for different reasons. The shared belief that one can drink socially and that alcohol consumption will not lead to any problem, contribute to consolidate this widely accepted practice. In truth, this study is considered to be more than a person’s addiction to alcohol itself; this custom is profoundly internalized, named by the present researcher as an alcoholic habitus.
Therefore, it would be seen as a pattern of behaviors, attitudes, and ways of thinking related to manners of ingesting alcohol, which is gradually assimilated. This research focused on emphasizing the socio-cultural dimension of alcoholism understood as a phenomenon, distinct from the prevailing perspective of the biomedicine which usually considers the addicted as one who has a mental and behavioral disorder due to the use of alcohol.
Along the interviews, some patients stated the following opinions which demonstrated that the military institution plays an important part in the construction of their alcoholism: (1) I worked on a ship that had brews in almost every occasion! All of this is an encouragement to drink; (2) Ah! The vibes contributed to my alcoholism, for sure! All warehouses that I’ve worked in Navy always had the blessed “cachaça” (a kind of sugar cane brandy)! (3) I worked on a ship that had brews in almost every occasion! All of this is an encouragement to drink.
Some of the findings of Dr. Elizabeth Halpern’s research were published in Psych Journal, vol. 5, n. 2, February 2014 by Scientific Research Publishing: Examining the role of Brazilian Navy before alcohol intake in the workplace.
In sum, drinking socially can bring (un)expected consequences. Although it usually is disregarded as a potential problem, someone may become a heavy drinker or addicted after many years of consumption. Most importantly, despite the dosage that one consumes, the tradition to drink during the working day increases the chances to cause injuries to individuals and damages to the organization.
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