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Beyond Sobriety and Community: Straight Edge Unveiled with Open Eyes and an Open Heart

Written by Betty Maxx

Defending My Choice: The Question of “Why Straight Edge”

I hate being asked why I am Straight Edge; I feel like it should be a decision that needs no external reasoning. People don’t often ask questions like “why do you breath air?” or “why do you eat food?” So why is it that they feel it’s necessary to ask me why I make the choice to care for myself? I feel like people who question others about their choice to claim are just waiting their turn to rebut the plethora of rehearsed responses; and I hate listening to dissertations on how Straight Edge is all about sobriety and community. Straight Edge is not community nor is it sobriety and reducing it down to two so simplistic ideals is both ridiculous and insulting. Granted, Straight Edge will mean different things to different people; it’s not a religion and there are no rules. However, universally speaking, those who limit the confines of their Edge to the concept of sobriety alone are really missing the point and the benefit.

When I claimed Edge almost 9 years ago I was just barely 11 years old and everyone has always insisted since then that I would change my mind, as I got older, and fall away from it. Now, if they were addressing my perspective on sobriety, they were correct. At 11 I felt that no one should ever drink, smoke, or use, and those who did were just “lowlifes”. As I’ve grown older, I’ve come to realize that there is a sophisticated and adult side to alcohol and even smoking; it may not necessarily be healthy but it doesn’t make someone a “lowlife”. As for drugs, I still very much do not condone using, but I do feel I better understand that the majority of people are not innately “bad” they simply make “bad” choices and using is one of those “bad” choices. My point being that I am and have always been completely sober, my edge solidifies that decision for me, but it has very little to do with why I am sober.

Straight Edge: Rejecting Conformity and Embracing Independence

As for the concept of Straight Edge being about community, it’s completely garbage. Is there a community of people who are Straight Edge? Yes. Is there a benefit to relating to others who feel the same way as you and don’t pressure you? Yes. Do you have to be part of a community to be Edge? No. Is the point of being Straight Edge not, to a certain extent, to reject the conforming world opinions of how adults and teens should enjoy themselves within their communities? You decide. But for me, if hardcore punk disappeared, and no one felt the same as me, I’d still be rockin’ my X’s. Just sayin’.

In my opinion the essence of being Straight Edge is very simple; It’s about physical and mental clarity, accountability, and integrity. That’s all there is.

I chose to claim edge at such a young age as a commitment to trusting my gut and following my word. I knew that I was frightened by the idea of ever being dependent on anything but myself to keep me happy. As a result, I promised I would never willingly or knowingly allow myself to become dependent on any kind of mind or mood altering substance. I was afraid of the kind of crutch that even casual use of substances can cause and I never wanted to enter a place where my mind or my body wasn’t aware of its surroundings. I wanted to know who I was, and to be accountable for everything I did, both good and bad. I’m no longer afraid of substances, and instead now, I am simply confident that my life is more clear and sure without them. Having a mind free of drugs and alcohol helps you to face your realities no matter how grim or unpleasant they may seem. Life is not a waiting game, and if you don’t have the state of mind to see your problems or to face your consequences how can you ever change them or improve yourself. Essentially for me clarity through straight edge has granted me the ability to continually grow and the inability to hind from myself.

Extending the Principles: Beyond Sobriety

Through out the years I have also learned to apply the principals of my Edge to so many facets of my life. It has become for me a commitment to clarity more than sobriety. I have learned to push myself to avoid as much instant gratification as possible. What I mean by that is that I have learned to look upon anything that doesn’t build me as a person, but gives me momentary satisfaction, as something that is not worth my time and hindrance to my progress. I’m not saying I don’t watch movies for fun, eat Thai food when it sounds delicious, or sing particularly loud to my favorite bands just to feel my heart race. I just make an effort to avoid things like compromising my values to work in a job where I might make more money, hanging out with people who may make me feel more “popular” but have no intention of being a good friend to me, or even something as simple as ignoring my internal feelings about something as a way of avoiding the reality of it. For me this also includes the issue of sex. Sex without compassion or connection is just a way to get an adrenaline and serotonin rush. Intimacy is a way to build a closer relationship with someone you care for; sex is a way to get a natural high. I don’t argue with people about this, it’s just how I feel.

Being Straight Edge has allowed me the ability to always own up to my responsibilities, troubles, and conflicts while also allowing me to acknowledge my perseverance, my triumphs, and my accolades. To break it down for you, before my mom, my family, my boyfriend, my Buddhism … it is my Straight Edge that keeps me “real”. Without it I may not have been able to appreciate the wonderful people who I am privileged to call my close friends, to love every moment of everyday as much as I can, and to push past every trouble the world throws my way. I don’t want everyone to be Edge; the world needs variety to keep the cogs a rollin’. I guess what I am saying though, is that if you look at your Straight Edge as a personal conviction and promise, you can gain so much more from it than if it’s a label or a rulebook.

“I won’t settle for cheap escape, won’t watch my life go down the drain, won’t give up my control in an attempt to numb the pain.”– Go It Alone

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