Here is my original response written by request of a college journalism major who contacted me online, looking for personal sources on what it means to be Straight Edge and in college. Although this is not my best writting on Edge yet, it came from a very real, gut place, as a writer and an Edge kid. To read the article excerpts of my resonse were used in, visit this link:
“Straight Edge felt right for me. There’s such an emphasis on the connection between youth and the drug culture, that its nice to know that there is an alternative support system out there. At a time when a lot of young people are looking to belong, Straight Edge validates those that are strong enough to stray from getting caught up in destructive behavior. The beliefs are only one piece of it; the idea that there is a culture, with its own history, and an active community that promotes healthy living and togetherness is empowering.
Personally, I had previously experimented with marijuana. Its almost impossible not to come accross it in a group of young people, and there’s a certain curiosity there; kind of a don’t knock it ’till you try it thing. So, I thought I would try it. I never was a big user though. I also was once prescribed pain killers, and found myself slightly addicted. I had also smoked cigarettes on my own and socially before. Actually, it ended up intriguing a best friend enough to start smoking himself. I feel responsible for that, and it definitely bugs me. Generally the physical reliance that came from smoking and drugs were what made me think twice about continuing them. At that point, my decisions where no longer my own, and I didn’t like that. Any momentary positives to smoking or drugs paled in comparison to the long term negatives, all around.
As for alcohol, beyond trying it to see what it was like, I’ve never been a fan of it. I just cant see myself putting that stuff in my body.
Peer pressure was never much of a factor for me. Every decision, before or after claiming Straight Edge, was my own. The problem becomes, when you’re in a group and you’re partial to something like smoking or drinking, and other people are doing it, its tough to resist. For me, getting over that was tough, but never had to do with wanting to fit in, more than simply getting over what became a physical craving. That’s true for anything I think. If you are on a diet, and you walk into a room where all your friends are pigging out on your favorite food, your stomach is going to taunt you. At that point it becomes a matter of will and commitment to your goals. No matter how much you might value your friends, your decisions come first. This should be true anyway, but its especially important when it comes to putting stuff directly into your body. Your body is a temple; nobody owns it but you. I wanted to stop putting poison in my body. When you have a strong desire to stick to abstaining from this stuff, seeing all the negative aftereffects makes it that much easier to remain drug free. If you eat too much pizza at a party, you might gain weight or have a stomach ache. If you binge drink, overdose, or contract an STD from casual sex you could end up dead… So that’s a large incentive to avoiding things like that all together… You know, living. I enjoy it too much to sell myself short.
To me, Straight Edge isn’t really about no drugs, alcohol, or random hooking up. Its about making the best decisions for yourself. YOURSELF is the key word. I developed these beliefs before truly embracing the Straight Edge culture or title. It was about personal control. I’m a smart guy;I pretty much just weighed the options, and Straight Edge won hands down. Im not saying folks who drink, smoke, hook up, or do drugs are dumb, but moderation is the key. For me, Edge makes too mush sense to not endorse it. If the belief in healthy decision making is the heart that keeps that dedication pumping, than the STRAIGHT EDGE world is the backbone of it. Straight Edge is a community. For someone like me, who felt myself losing a bit of control, and decided to steady that with a bit of integrity, it is like a big, welcoming family. Although the title and specific culture originated out of the hardcore music scene, it has spread far beyond that. However, it only helps us if people see that when it comes to rock and roll, it isn’t all about sex and drugs; Straight Edge is, in fact, a ROCK STAR thing.
Rather than spell out their distaste for what amounts to negativity, kids can simply proclaim that they are Straight Edge. You take pride in the title, because you take pride in not only the bare belief system, which could rightfully live on its own, but the commitment to staying true to yourself, your friends, and your family. Edge is a lifelong commitment. To those who use it as something of a stepping stone past the peer pressure of the drug culture, personally, I can’t criticize. Edge gives you a validation that says you can be yourself, while still feeling like a part of something bigger, beyond a fraternity, or a group of stoners. In that way, you’re promoting a peacefulness and mentality that enriches someonesself esteem and confidence. Rather than inciting conflict, what you are saying with Straight Edge, versus the more typical college culture, is to each their own. One of the most common misconceptions of Straight Edge is that the majority who claim Edge are militant toward those who do not subscribe to it. As with any group, with enough people involved, you will occasionally run into a bad apple or two. Personally, I have no problem with someone who doesn’t agree with me. Its their decision, and their body. What I’ have a problem with, is if these activities got out of control. Then, I would have no choice but to speak up and act. But this doesn’t have much to do with Edge itself. Generally, I would hope that, if you felt that any of your friends or family were hurting themselves, you would be prompted to intervene. I choose Straight Edge, simply because I dint feel the need to risk losing control. I dig that I remember everything that happened last Saturday night.
Although a lot of folks blend together vegan or vegetarianism and sexual abstinence in with Straight Edge, they are simply an extension of the Straight Edge philosophy. It begins to take on a life of its own. While, originally, the mantra was DON’T DRINK, DON’T SMOKE, DON’T FUCK, which simply expressed the idea that you should make responsible decisions when it comes to this stuff, and not over do it, the modern philopshy of Edge is to never ever drink, smoke, or do drugs. However, while some individuals do not have sex at all, the general consensus is that sexual activity is okay, within a healthy context; meaning within a caring, dedicated relationship. Straight Edge is about making the best decisions, in order to enjoy and take control of your life. I find a certain joy in sex, and sometimes I like to take control, you know?
As far as how I specifically learned about the Straight Edge culture, I would have to say the Internet. Its such a powerful resource. Im sure that previously the main source of publicity came at rock shows, and through other kids who dug bands that preached the Edge mantra, like the founding fathers of Edge, Minor Threat. For me, looking online, to try to see that I was not alone in my philosophy, Straight Edge was the greatest thing. I mightve seen the Xs on clothing or something, but doing my homework on music culture and positive youth decisiomaking lead me to embrace Edge. The web is the perfect medium in spreading the word about things like this; things that may have been considered completely underground only a few years ago, are available. After all, you found me through an Edge group on FaceBook.com. I think, with anything you strongly believe in, you have a certain responsibility to get the message out there even further, especially something like Edge. People, particularly young people who are looking for a place to belong, need to know that there are alternatives to the binge drinking, drug abusing and sexual wasteland that litters the landscape around us. I know there are some kids out there somewhere who are involved in this stuff, who otherwise wouldn’t be, if it were not for feeling alone and wanting to be accepted. Kids get passive about it, and don’t realize that its destroying us, as individuals, and as a group. I feel like its almost a mob mentality, you know? I feel like kids, and society in general feels like, simply because other people are doing it, that its right. I just find it hard to believe that this many college or high school kids are truly into fucking themselves up so much, regardless to if they realize the effects or not. What is it that dictates that just because I’m young, I should be into this?
Because of so many representing us so poorly, as young people, we have to fight to take respect back. The first step to being respected by the world, is self respect. Taking on the Straight Edge is the ultimate exercise in this. As a person who is Straight Edge, and a young voice, I don’t want to be out there shoving anything down anyones throat. I just want kids to start questioning the way things are going, and know that theres a community of positive thinkers out there ready to support them in being who they are, and who they want to be. I want everyone to know that this is simply, a positive, cool movement, with something to say. Theres no reason good enough for kids not to consider it; after all, Straight Edge is punk rock.”