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 a straight edge
~ Minor Threat
My parents were probably in anguish over the screaming vocals and rapid-fire guitar chords blasting out of my stereo speakers when I was in high school. They probably thought the music was encouraging all sorts of deviant behavior or perhaps giving praise to the devil. If they only knew the message that was really being delivered, they might have told me to turn up the volume.
I was into straight edge punk rock at the time. I fully bought into the ethos that movement advocated: to keep your mind and body free of substances and activities that would interfere with your ability to think critically and take action when needed to right injustice. The message of bands like Minor Threat and 7Seconds dovetailed nicely with my Southern Baptist upbringing and this further reinforced my feeling that I was doing the right thing.
As I took on the fashions of my skateboarding peer group, including floppy lopsided haircuts and clothing bought at the army surplus store and Goodwill, I’m sure my church community thought I was straying from the flock. Little did they know that I was stronger in my convictions against using drugs and alcohol than many of my peers who dressed the part of the perfect Baptist teen on Sunday morning after spending their Saturday night out drinking and exploring their sexuality.
I was proud of being straight edge. I felt like I was being true to who I was. Those of us in the straight edge community were perfectly accepted by other punks and skaters who chose to use alcohol and drugs. There was no sense of being ostracized for the decision we made to refrain.
When I was going into my senior year, I made a decision that altered the course of how I conducted my life. I decided I wanted to drink beer. Why? For the same reason that teenage boys decide to do most of the things they choose to do: I wanted to impress some girls. It seems that fashion trends had shifted over the summer and all of a sudden, I was being noticed by girls at the higher rungs of the high school social ladder. The vast majority of them were into partying and alcohol.
Once I started drinking, I never looked back. I left for college and my Minor Threat tapes and skateboard started gathering dust. I got into the rhythm of drinking on weekends and believing that alcohol was the secret to having a good time. I am an introvert and I liked that alcohol seemed to give me the ability to be comfortable meeting and socializing with new people. Drinking became a part of my personality. Out drinking was where I met many of the people I today call friend.
I don’t regret the decision I made to have that first sip of beer. If I never had my life would not have taken me on the journey it has and left me here in a place where overall I am happy and content. But lately, I’ve been asking myself whether consuming alcohol is adding any value to my life. Increasingly, the answer I come up with is no.
So for this month, I’ve got a straight edge again. I am enjoying the break from alcohol while also feeling some pangs of longing when others around me are partaking. Alcohol has become such a social norm in our society that when I am not drinking, I can feel like an outsider. Maybe it’s time to dust off the Minor Threat tapes, turn up the volume and remember that I am not alone. There is a whole movement of people out there who have decided that their life is fuller and more meaningful without alcohol. It is nice to be one of them again.