Jun 8, 2023

a hand on everybody's shoulder

James Conaway remembers old-school journalism life in New Orleans, including the observational aside that “booze has a hand on everybody’s shoulder in this city,” and I’m realizing what an apt metaphor for booze this is — and one of the most pernicious ways that alcohol operates.

I stopped drinking nearly six years ago. I’ve since seen how many ways alcohol can enact a slowing and clouding effect on people outside of straightforward substance abuse. Plenty of folks are, you know, fine — not blacking out, not making dumb phone calls late at night, not getting cruel or rowdy at parties. But the chronic leaden effect of taking in a mild depressant can show up in other ways: The self-sabotage of not waking early enough to commit to a creative project. The evening sleepiness that’s in the way of some difficult parenting decisions, more easily avoided. The off-switch from the head noise that might otherwise demand some closer attention and grant some liberating changes.

Alcohol can be an active destroyer. But more often, I suspect, it’s just a chemical dodge, or an ejector seat from life. Or a hand on the shoulder, weighing down your steps. Survivable, sure, but obstructing the movement of lightness, quickness, freedom.