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Straight Edge Interveiw Project: Olivia Hoover-Mahoney , 33, NY She/Her

Meet Olivia, a 33-year-old artist from upstate New York. Living with her husband and their cat, Dottie, she balances her career with her passions and is working towards a tattoo apprenticeship. Initially claiming edge in her teens, Olivia struggled with addictive tendencies. After six years of sobriety, she joined a growing number of people who find their way back to straight edge as adults. Her story highlights personal growth, the importance of community and family support, and the transformative role that the hardcore and straight edge scenes can play in one’s life.

Share a brief introduction about yourself.
I’m 33 years old, I live in upstate New York with my husband Ian and my cat Dottie, and I work in hospital supply chain.

Tell us about your interests and passions. 
I’m an artist, I have a bachelor’s degree in art and art history, I’m a baker, I’m into fitness and weightlifting, I’m a huge tattoo enthusiast and also am working on my own tattoo drawing skills. I hope one day to have an apprenticeship with an artist in my area.

What’s currently on your playlist? 

Point of Contact, Kublai Khan, World of Pleasure, XWeaponX, Inclination, Knocked Loose, The Acacia Strain, No Cure, Stick To Your Guns

How do you personally define straight edge?
I define Straight Edge as being in opposition to our culture of addiction and intoxication. Abstaining from alcohol, recreational drugs, and smoking cigarettes is a form of protest and rebellion against self-destructive behaviors.

How important is music to your relationship with straight edge?
Music is very important! If Straight Edge were to be compared to a religious faith, the music is comparable to scripture. There are plenty of sober/non-drinking/drug use communities in the world, but Straight Edge is unique in the music that we’ve created and the community around that music.

What’s your straight edge story? 
I actually claimed edge as a teenager, around 17 or 18. There wasn’t much of a scene where I grew up, but I discovered the concept of Straight Edge online. So, I was kind of Straight Edge by myself, but I was absolutely enamored. I was very passionate about it, as teenagers tend to be of course! My first tattoo ever was an edge tattoo, and I still have it to this day.

When I got older, in my early 20s, my addictive personality started to rear its ugly head, and I “broke edge.” I’m absolutely an addict at heart, my first addiction was food. My journey with my weight/eating disorders is its own story, but the addictive personality is very much a part of me. So for 3-4 years, I was off the wagon. I drank hard. Those years were dark, I wasn’t having fun and living it up, it was bad. The best part of that whole situation was meeting my husband, who is the light of my life. We both drank at the time, but we made the decision to get sober together. We’ve been alcohol-free since April 2017. And we’re never, ever going to touch it again. Our sobriety keeps us strong and helps us love one another all the more.

Even though I got sober from alcohol, I didn’t consider myself Straight Edge again. I wasn’t sure about my relationship with it, having broken edge during my drinking years. I almost didn’t think I had the right to claim edge again. But in 2023, during my 6-year sobriety anniversary, I just felt that call. I looked at the tattoo on my arm that I got when I was 18, and I remembered the girl I was and what it meant to me. I’m older now and I’ve been through more, I understand myself better, and I know what addiction looks like and feels like. So, in April of 2023, I claimed edge again, and it felt like coming home. I know a lot of militant Straight Edge people would scorn me for my journey and the events that led me to where I am today, but that doesn’t matter to me. I am Straight Edge, now and forever.

Can you recall a pivotal moment or experience that solidified your commitment to straight edge?
I don’t think there’s one moment, but whenever I feel life beating me down, I remember how my sobriety and my decision to be Straight Edge is a gift I give myself every day. No matter how hard my life gets, I am sober, I am substance-free. I have a clear head, and I know how awful it is to be an addict. I’ll never ever go back to that life.

How has straight edge influenced your relationships with family, friends, and others?
Thankfully I have supportive people around me, especially my husband Ian. He is sober from alcohol but does use cannabis products, and he is understanding and supportive of my decision to not use substances of any kind. We love and support one another, always.

Looking back, is there anything about the path into and through straight edge that you would do differently?
I wish I had been more compassionate toward those struggling with addiction as a young person because lo and behold I would go on to struggle with it myself! People who are Straight Edge and have never used substances sometimes can be overly judgmental in my opinion, when we need to be more kind. Now that I’ve been through what I have, I would have told 18-year-old me to be nicer

It would be easy to say “I wish I had never drank,” but I’m grateful for my drinking years even though they were terrible. I have an understanding of my own addictive personality and compassion for those going through the same thing.

True or False: “If you’re not now, you never were”?

False! We’re all only human, and we’re doing our best. Life is hard, we don’t need to make it harder by lashing out at one another and trying to be more “pure” than one another. I believe in commitment doing what you say you’re going to do, and living according to your morals. People can leave the Straight Edge movement for their own reasons and not come back, others can be like me and go through a dark time, but come home again wiser and better. I’m more committed to being Straight Edge than I was as a young person because I know I what I’m talking about now, I’ve been down that bad road and I’m not going back.

Have you encountered any challenges or misconceptions about being straight edge?
Thankfully not really! I think any clean/sober person has to do some explaining when people realize they don’t drink, because drinking and recreational drug use are so common in our culture. But, nobody has given me a hard time of it, yet!

Do you feel that your gender or age has influenced your experience within the straight edge and hardcore scenes? 
I think being a woman in any heavy music scene can be hard. We have to kind of fight our way in a lot of the time. We have to be braver. The scene has been a boys’ club for a long, long time, as we all know, but thankfully it’s full of brave women who don’t let that stop them from making heavy music and enjoying it as well! I am grateful I don’t encounter issues due to my age or gender, at least not yet, but I’m always aware that this means I’ve been fortunate, not that other women don’t experience issues like this.

In your view, how inclusive is the straight edge movement, and what steps could be taken to enhance its inclusivity?
I think being kind and understanding to anyone who breaks edge or falls off the wagon, especially if they’re young! Shaming a young person for drinking or anything else when they claimed edge at 15, 16 years old is just cruel. They were children! If someone wants to come back to the community and say “I’m done with alcohol/drugs forever, I learned my lesson, this is where I belong” the only thing other Straight Edge people should say is “Welcome home, we’re glad you’re back.” I have so much respect for anyone who claimed as a teen and never wavered, they’re strong people. But it’s not the only way. We need to have compassion. People already view us as bullies, we don’t need to live up to that stereotype

Have you observed any evolution in the straight edge scene regarding acceptance and diversity?
I think the fact that so many bands are fronted by or include women and queer people now, that probably would have been unthinkable a decade or two ago! I’d like to see this continue, with every beautiful variety of humans under the sun participating and making music. Straight Edge is for everyone!

Mother, wife, small business owner. www.justbuttons.org

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