Introducing myself cannot be done without simultaneously questioning whether or not Straight Edge can harmoniously coincide with Recovery. I regret to inform you that I am not one of the lucky individuals who can claim ‘pure blood’ and proudly, factually state that they have never imbibed or ingested a drug. Rather, I claim Xs and wear them as a soldier wears armor in my daily battle for sobriety. Though there is an appeal in limiting the Straight Edge community to only those with the aforementioned ‘pure-blood’, I believe this is incredibly exclusionary and goes against the very guiding principle of abstinence as a means of rebellion. I endlessly applaud those who have never faced temptation or a lapse in judgment, but for the rest of us who have overcome trials and tribulation and have found the will to stand up once more and take back what once was lost: proudly claim your Xs because this one is for you.
My story is one you undoubtedly know. Have you heard the one about the girl who had the world at her feet but was ill-prepared for adulthood and predisposed to addiction? Hi. Nice to meet you. I’m Darcie and I’m a woman who was once a girl who had the world at her feet, but I was ill-prepared for adulthood and had very little knowledge of my predisposition to addiction. I prided myself on my academic prowess which resulted in degrees from prestigious universities, my athletic endeavors which led to multiple trophies and school records, and my sparkling reputation which led me to be known as a loving, charitable friend and family member. However, even with every ace up my sleeve, trouble was brewing undetected just under the surface for nearly a decade. At the vulnerable age of 13, my father passed away after a brutal 2-year long fight. I was not offered any assistance in how to deal with grief nor did I pursue any, not realizing that such a loss could have an immense, long-lasting impact. I immediately buried my head in school work and distracted myself with boys, sports, and college prep. I did everything that was expected of the ideal daughter, sister, aunt, friend, student, and girlfriend and went through year after year believing that I had a good handle on my life. It wasn’t until I moved back to my hometown after completing graduate school that I learned that I was sorely mistaken. All of a sudden, I no longer had the structure and routine of a class schedule and due dates. I couldn’t prove my worth with a GPA and no one was waiting to congratulate me on an impressive semester. I quickly realized that I lacked the skills necessary to impose my own schedule and routine and that, despite lengthy education, I didn’t have the slightest clue what I wanted to do with my life. It turns out that there isn’t much demand for one skilled at learning information that is already known with the ability to accurately regurgitate it on written and practical exams. In short, I quite literally didn’t know how to adult. I felt vulnerable, ashamed, and embarrassed. I was a fraudulent failure. Then, to make matters worse, being back in my hometown with no school routine to distract me led me to finally acknowledge that I was without a father. The ensuing crushing grief and self-loathing took me by the hand and led me to the local watering hole where I would meet the drug dealer who would introduce me to a whole new method of coping. Did I know alcoholism and drug addiction affected others in my family tree? Certainly. Did I understand that a high IQ and outstanding resume did not make me immune to the same fate? Apparently not. To this day, I cannot explain what made me believe that I could never fall victim to powerful, addictive substances, but is the most valuable lesson that I have ever learned. I spent the next 3 years in the same body I’ve always had, but a new mind took over the helm. Family, friends, food, shelter, sleep, health, pride, hygiene, and independence no longer mattered. Money only had value in the exchange for prescription pills. Unfortunately, addiction is a vicious enemy that takes over the control of your brain. It truly will shut down the areas of the brain that are involved in higher reasoning and decision making. One is left with their primal brain; that is to say, the area that is driven by emotion and the pursuit of survival basics. The issue with addiction is that survival basics such as food, shelter, and sleep are replaced by the drink or drug. The primal brain is literally rewired to interpret the addictive chemical as the primary life-sustaining element. Therefore, one is left with the appearance of who they once were, but is completely driven by the emotional, unquenchable thirst for the drug which the brain is convinced will keep the body alive. To make a long story short, it took me 3 years to sever every relationship with friends and family members, destroy every advantage that I gained throughout my life, and limit all of my future possibilities in exchange for a criminal record and the brief, ever-fleeting numbness provided by a small pill. Fortunately, a great deal of dissonance was created between who I wanted to be and who I had become. This story ends in the triumph of sobriety. I looked into the eyes of the addiction that had every reason to believe that it had claimed me as its loyal servant, and I firmly stood my ground. I mustered up the last of my strength, planted my feet beneath me, held my head high, and said no through gritted teeth. I refused to continue denying the grief process and acting as though adulthood was an impossibly intricate subject liken to that of Differential Equations. I took on the responsibility and repercussions of all of my actions, as well as life outside of the classroom. It is this decision that leads me to sobriety and it is sobriety that led me to the Straight Edge community. The Xs that I claimed make the difference between life and death every single day. I understand what they represent more than words can explain and their value lies deep within my very bones. Should you be feeling particularly tough, try to challenge me on my identification as Straight Edge. I dare you.
Now that we know each other a bit better, let’s dig into this debate. First and foremost, let’s begin with a basic definition. The Straight Edge movement and identity came about in response to the overzealous and self-indulgent lifestyle of the Punk community in the 1980s. In its most basic form, Straight Edge is abstaining from drinking alcohol, using drugs, smoking cigarettes, and refraining from casual sex. Many other facets, such as Veganism and abstaining from the use of caffeine, have since been incorporated, but at the very root Straight Edge is founded on clean-living and refusal to participate in drug use; i.e. rejection of what is common in today’s society, abstinence as a form of rebellion. In other words, addiction and addictive chemicals have no power over a Straight Edge individual’s life. Is that not what one is doing when they choose sobriety and enter into Recovery? Isn’t taking back control of one’s life and regaining power over it the very point of getting clean? It is important to note at this point that Recovery is an ongoing process. One does not wake up one morning to find that they have finally reached the status of ‘recovered’. Each and every day, there is a decision made to not pick up and use and, in so doing, surrender control once again. So, what we then have when discussing an individual in successful Recovery is one who wields control over their lives and is not powerless to addiction in any sense. How does that not align with that which Straight Edge stands? How does a person in Recovery not perfectly exemplify being Straight Edge? I fail to see the difference between someone who has never suffered from addiction and one who overcame it in this regard. If nothing else, the difference would be that the one who overcame addiction would have stronger convictions and would be far more passionate about the lifestyle they have chosen. I’m clearly biased, but admittedly so, and it won’t stop me from believing that those of us who have had to come out swinging and put up a fight for their life have claimed far more meaningful Xs. I mean no disrespect to anyone who has gone their entire life without the same struggle as myself. We ended up in the same place and we all celebrate the same beliefs. I merely wish to make the case that the same should be said to myself and others who have a similar tale. I am no less Edge because I once was the furthest thing from it. The Straight Edge and Recovery communities should not be mutually exclusive.
So, who am I? I’m Darcie. I’m in Recovery. I’m a strong, independent woman. I’m Straight Edge.