A lot of people are pretty surprised when they find out I don’t drink alcohol and that I have never tried smoking or drugs. As a result I have received a full spectrum of reactions after revealing this fact about myself. While my thoughts and feelings about this subject have shifted slightly over the years, my core beliefs and values have remained the same since I was 15 years old.
I’m not sure why, but growing up as a young kid in a small town I never really had the desire to try drinking alcohol or smoking cigarettes like a lot other of kids my age did. Every once in a while my parents would let me have a few sips of whatever they were drinking at the time—wine at Thanksgiving, or rum punch at Christmas, but I never drank enough to get drunk or ever experience what a buzz was. Then in ninth grade, a friend I looked up to introduced me to a new term and concept a few of the bands he liked subscribed to: “straight edge.” I don’t remember exactly how he explained what straightedge was, but I knew I fit the description, so during my freshman year of high school I made the choice to live the rest of my life free from alcohol, tobacco, and illicit drugs. I understand some people might find this shocking given that I had never even tried any of those things, but to be frank, it wasn’t a difficult decision. I didn’t even have to give it a lot of thought because it simply wasn’t a big deal to me at the time—and it still isn’t. The desire or curiosity was just never there, and part of what lay beneath that lack of desire was the fact that I never wanted any outside substances to affect my actions or decisions, and I always wanted to keep a healthy mind and body.
Throughout the rest of high school I had what some would consider a bit of an elitist attitude about “being straight edge.” I marked big black Xs on my hands and drew an sXe symbol on my backpack to show people that I was straightedge. I purchased and proudly wore straightedge T-shirts and hats. I was openly vocal that I thought my life choices were better than someone else’s if we didn’t see eye to eye on the issue. However, as I grew up I grew out of that attitude and mindset.
Over the years I stopped using the term straight edge and stopped labeling myself as such. A big reason for that was I didn’t want to be associated with people that acted like I did in high school. Also, I didn’t want people to ever think I was labeling myself something just to be a part of a group or to fit in. I especially never wanted to be associated with straight edgers who were violent towards others who didn’t have the same beliefs as them. I became mature enough to come to grips with the fact that my decisions and choices are just that—mine. They are personal to me, and although I’m proud of the way I live my life, I also respect other people’s decisions on how they choose to live theirs.
Nowadays if someone asks me if I’m straight edge I may or may not say yes, but I’ll always tell them I have committed to living my life without drugs, tobacco, and alcohol. If asked I’ll always tell them my reasons are that I never want outside substances to affect my actions or decisions, and I want to maintain a healthy mind and body.
I’m smart enough to realize that I’m the minority when it comes to this topic, so I know not everyone will understand my decisions. I’m also smart enough to know that, in moderation, none of these substances are that bad and wouldn’t really have much affect on me, if any at all… The easiest way I’ve found to help people relate is comparing my lifestyle to being vegetarian: Most vegetarians don’t think that eating a piece of meat will hurt them. But at the same time, they don’t have the desire to eat a piece of meat because it’s simply not a part of their life. Have you ever seen a vegetarian look at a steak dinner and be bummed they can’t eat it? Probably not. It’s not that they can’t eat it; they simply don’t have the desire to eat it. Vegetarians don’t necessarily have above-average willpower—many simply don’t have the temptations to begin with. So even though many vegetarians do not think a piece of meat will hurt them; because they’ve lived their lives without it for so long, if they were to eat a bite of steak, there is a good chance it would make them sick to their stomach, and possibly even cause them to throw up. Sometimes even the mere thought of eating meat can make a vegetarian feel queasy. Obviously these statements are extremely broad and don’t apply to all vegetarians, but again, this the best way I’ve come up with to help people understand my perspective. So, everything I just wrote is true for me if you replace “eating meat” with “drinking alcohol.”
I don’t expect anyone to read this and decide they are never going to drink or smoke, but on the same token, just like any other commonalities in life; it is great to meet people who share similar beliefs on this subject. And of course, if I were ever in a serious relationship, I’d love for it to be with someone that has the same values as me when it comes to this.