Let's Get a Serious

In my college Speech class, we had to give a presentation on our favorite song, starting with a thirty second clip of music. My choice was “Straight Edge”, by Minor Threat. It was a funny moment, playing that clip. In class, I was always in the front row, my hand was always up, but I was otherwise plain and quiet. None of my classmates expected a burst of angry, fast, loud punk rock to blast from those speakers. They probably thought I would play Debussy or something. No offense to Claude, but “Straight Edge was, and still is, the most meaningful song. Why? Well, read the lyrics:

* Explicit material.

I’m a person just like you
But I’ve got better things to do
Than sit around and fuck my head
Hang out with the living dead
Snort white shit up my nose
Pass out at the shows
I don’t even think about speed
That’s something I just don’t need

I’ve got the straight edge

I’m a person just like you
But I’ve got better things to do
Than sit around and smoke dope
‘Cause I know I can cope
Laugh at the thought of eating ludes
Laugh at the thought of sniffing glue
Always gonna keep in touch
Never want to use a crutch

I’ve got the straight edge
I’ve got the straight edge
I’ve got the straight edge
I’ve got the straight edge

This might seem like a strange song to lean on, but I grew up around drugs and severe alcohol use. I’ve been through some very scarring and traumatic experiences as a result of having addicts for family members. I know that I have a predisposition for addiction, and coupled with a struggle with depression and anxiety, I’d be on a highway to rock bottom instantly if I were to use drugs or alcohol. Moderation is not a possibility for me, so I stay away from drugs and alcohol altogether.

Week in the Life 2012 | Monday

Labeling myself as Straight Edge has been instrumental in my self-development. I am so thankful for Minor Threat and for the concept. (I’m also pretty darn thankful that they fought underage kids not being able to get into shows. That “X” on your hand to designate you as a non-drinking minor thing? Minor Threat started that. Hence the tattoo.)

Many people think that it’s unnecessary to put a label on a choice like this, but choosing to be labeled as Straight Edge helped me through a time when I didn’t know anyone my age that was making the same choice. When I was in high school, I didn’t have a single friend that didn’t drink. Most of them did other drugs as well: marijuana being the most prominent, but there was plenty of meth, ecstasy, mushrooms, and prescription drugs floating around as well. My friends lovingly labeled me “Mom” at the time for worrying about them, but most didn’t care either way about my personal choice. This acceptance wasn’t common across the board, however. When you’re young, the concept of peer pressure seems ludicrous, but peer pressure really was very prominent at any social gatherings. I didn’t spend a ton of time at parties (the majority of my time in my teenage years was spent studying, doing extracurriculars, and going to concerts), but I was living in a world where kids were drinking screwdrivers out of a Sunny D bottle in first period Biology. It didn’t really matter that I didn’t go to it, it came to me.

There was always a place without pressure, though. Punk shows. At a punk show or after party, if a person asked me if I wanted a drink, and I said, “No thanks, I’m Straight Edge,” and the person would say, “Alright, cool.” And that was it. Abstinence is usually seen as something to beat out of a peer, but people who knew about the concept respected it, because they knew it was a practice of self control. This was useful for boyfriends as well, because being Straight Edge (for most) is just as much a hands off message as a Christian’s purity ring.

I’m not crazy hardcore about it. There are people who take the concept to extremities, who won’t even take mild pain medication (these “hardliners” also tend to be vegans or vegetarians and some abstain from sex entirely). There are even violent gangs centered around the concept (mostly in Utah, from what I’ve heard), but this is not the majority.

I do take medicine for headaches, I really really like epidurals, and I’m not above taking a pain killer if I’m not tough enough. But I use these things as a last resort (I didn’t use my pain killer prescription for fracturing my finger, for instance. I was given a VERY unnecessary amount of pain killers for that.) I sometimes use alcohol when cooking and while most of it reduces out, there’s still a bit left over when the food is consumed. I’m fine with that. But I’ve never been drunk, I’ve never taken drugs recreationally, and I’ve only slept with one person. I’m pretty darn proud of all that, because it took an extraordinary amount of self-control to get here.

Jake

Jake doesn’t drink either. I was so thankful for this when we started dating. The smell of alcohol on someone’s breath takes me to a bad place. Jake abstinence wasn’t helped along by the Straight Edge movement. He just simply doesn’t like alcohol. He doesn’t like the taste, doesn’t like the feeling of being drunk, doesn’t want to spend money acquiring a taste for something he doesn’t like just to fit in socially.

It’s harder for him, because his family has a very strong drinking culture. His family parties always include drinking (which was weird for me at first, because there is never alcohol at my extended family functions). It’s not a negative thing, it’s more that his family is one big friendship network and his huge family likes to relax and hang out into the night. That’s cool. But it makes it hard for them to understand his choice, and throws us even further into black sheep territory.

Straight Edge

What most people don’t get is that just because we don’t drink doesn’t mean that we think YOU shouldn’t. We don’t even mind being around it: we consider ourselves the memory keepers of all the super silly things our friends do at parties (and believe me, there are some funny stories remembered now that would have been otherwise forgotten). We’re not here to be judgmental about drinking and drugs and promiscuity. Neither of us made the decision to be this way because we think that not being abstinent is wrong. We both view those things as health rather than moral issues, for the most part. Our only moral objections to these things are when others are being put into unsafe situations: we object strongly to drinking and driving, having unprotected sex when you know you have an STD, or negligent parenting as a result of drug use, for example. Otherwise, we think it’s a personal choice.

But we do feel that the personal choice to be abstinent has made us stronger. And having full mental facilities at all times may just give us an edge.

What has your relationship with drinking and drugs been? Are either normal in your family? Decriminalized in your country? What do YOU think?


Let’s Get Serious is a blog series where we share our opinions and put ourselves out there. We get that not everyone thinks the same way; the same things don’t work for everyone. These are our opinions. They don’t have to be your opinions. We’d like to hear about what you think, but please don’t be mean to us. Let’s respect each other and talk about it!

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