Straight edge is a big thing in my life. It’s a big theme running throughout this site – four out of six contributors are in fact straight edge. I’m pretty sure that if you’re reading this, you know what straight edge is. Hell, I wrote the explanatory article for here in the first place. As I write this article, it’s what the stoner community knows as “4/20”, an excuse to go and smoke as much pot as they can, because of a stupid slang term. If that’s what you like to do, then I’m not going to stop you. I have my vices, but the difference is, none of them are chemical substances that are likely to destroy various aspects of my body. Either way, I know straight edge is not for everyone and it would not be anywhere near as effective if it were. So, after seeing Christopher Gutierrez, my favourite independent writer, post a tumblr blog about why he’s still straight edge, I thought I’d jump on the bandwagon and explain that this is why I live the life I do.
I first became straight edge when I was thirteen years old. I had been drunk before. My actions when I was drunk caused me to fall out with pretty much all my friends, all because I decided to get a little too close to this boy they all liked. Nothing even happened, but they all got jealous anyway. After coming back from a New Found Glory show, I couldn’t sleep, so I started reading a couple of threads on a forum I frequented. And I started to see the value in this lifestyle called ‘straight edge’. No smoking, no drinking, no drugs. A clean slate. Davey Havok was straight edge and he was cool. I thought ‘why not?’. What did I have to lose? I announced myself as straight edge to this online community and they laughed at me, saying that as I wasn’t legal drinking age, I’d sure change my mind. Six years later and I haven’t. And I can guarantee that ten, twenty years later, I still won’t have.
I thought that maybe, going to university would change it. I didn’t want to change who I was, but I thought that it could happen – after all, new situation, new fears. Peer pressure. I’d never given into it before – I know some people who quit edge when commencing sixth form – but I didn’t know what could happen. First night in, they were all playing drinking games. I respectfully declined. Nobody bit my head off, they all just said ‘okay’. I’ve been pulled up on it by others there, but I forgot that people at universities are generally more accepting and liberal than other places. I’m glad that I never gave in, because I would have been betraying myself.
Through being straight edge, I have apparently missed out on a lot. I don’t get invited to anywhere near as many parties as I would do otherwise. I find clubbing irritating because all my friends are drunk and I’m not. I actually have to deal with problems instead of drinking to make them all go away. In some respects, I feel left out. I missed out on a lot of the typical formative activities of my peers. However, I realise that it’s all worth it. Without straight edge, I wouldn’t be as strong a person. I wouldn’t have learned as many lessons as I have. It’s not a cross to bear, as a lot of people believe, but it’s something I’m proud of. I am proud that I have the strength to say no. I am proud that I can see things clearly. I am proud that I do not have to depend upon a chemical high in order to have a good time. Do I need to be like everybody else? No. I haven’t been like everybody else all my life, so why should I start now?
I’ve never “x’d” up. I’ve never worn any straight edge affiliated clothing. I don’t have a straight edge tattoo… yet. I barely ever say that I am straight edge, I just say I don’t drink. The pride I feel from being straight edge is kind of an inner pride – I don’t feel I have to flaunt it. It’s not because I’m afraid, it’s because I like to think that I’m more accepting of other people’s lifestyle choices and if I’m not militant about it, they might be of mine. That’s another thing that being straight edge has taught me – everybody has a choice. We can all choose to live one way or another and nobody is exactly right, but some people do end up making better choices than others. Who’s to say mine is better? Nobody. Although, I do think that I chose a better life than some of my high school companions. At least three of my old friends are now habitual drug users and I don’t believe that they’re better off than me, but they’ll have learned different lessons in their lives due to that choice. That’s their route and I don’t know if they’d change it. They probably wouldn’t. Just like I wouldn’t change mine.
I guess that part of the reason why I became straight edge was because I wanted to be different. I have to admit, I don’t like fitting in with the vast majority and I don’t think I should behave in a certain way or act like a dick to do it. I think it’s a waste of time. I think we should celebrate our differences because let’s face it, everyone is awesome in their own way. Unless they’re racist or a clown. But still, the world would be a much better place if everyone wasn’t afraid to hide who they really were and that’s part of what straight edge is – having the guts to admit that you are different and you’re happy with that. As HeyChris pointed out, straight edge is one of the biggest ‘fuck you’s’ in the scene. It’s rebellion in a rebellious scene. Straight edge is courage. And you know what? I like having that courage.