I first heard of Straight Edge in my mid-teens when a friend of mine, chatting on ICQ told me he was ‘sXe.’. Living in Hong Kong I figured this was a sect of Buddhism I’d not heard of before – Tao, Zen, sXe… He explained it as meaning he didn’t drink or take drugs. I remember thinking, ‘alright, each to their own.’ By this point, my teen self was already a pretty committed smoker and drinker.
Looking back now, it was from around age 18 I had tried to cut down on drinking, knowing how destructive it was; started to get scared by the blackouts, and ashamed of my behavior. I tried, and failed. I tried, and failed. A couple of mates told me I drank too much, I should cut down, but giving up was never an option, it was never even suggested by anyone, even Doctors. And moderating – seemed impossible. One drink became two, two became ten. My tolerance was really high and in my 20’s I was able to drink heavily, but be seemingly fully functioning; a full-time job, studying part-time for a Masters in Law, hanging out, working out.. Friends would be dying of a hangover on Saturday mornings and I’d be at the gym, sweating out the toxins, ready for another round later that day.
I had a couple of pretty confident sXe mates that deep down I looked at, and thought, I feel more like them… As a kid, I was pretty confident; friendly, social, and already finding my feet in the life of activism! As an adult, I felt like booze was hindering this, but didn’t really know what to do. I loved drinking, it was part of my life, I felt it was part of my personality even…
But after a particularly difficult time in my life where I was drinking way above even the socially accepted amount (and in Britain, that’s a lot) I gave myself an end date to cut back drastically, but – again – giving up was never an option. Over the next 18 months, I scaled down my drinking massively. It wasn’t easy, but I felt better, mentally and physically. Still, it didn’t feel enough. My moods, my physical health – I could feel the negative consequences even more deeply because I’d started to really feel the positive changes in me from not drinking. I went for 28 days without booze, then drank at a friend’s wedding. It was weird. I didn’t like feeling out of control, or the ‘unreal’ emotions; namely feeling overly emotional, and self-critical, for no real reason at all. So I did another 38 days before drinking at a hardcore festival (Ieper, Belgium) and on the last day, chatting happily to a sXe friend of mine, realized ‘I don’t want to drink today’ – AT A FESTIVAL. Ha! And two weeks later on a train home, 8am, alone, from Outbreak festival in Leeds, Northern England I said to myself, ‘Enough! One year. Sober.’ I knew deep down I didn’t mean one year, but anything more was unfathomable to me at that point. One Christmas sober, one birthday sober, friends celebrations – it would be a social experiment on myself, easier to explain to others.
And it was hard. I had to fight my addiction and societies want for me to drink with everything I had. It’s hard to describe the physical cravings I had, and at some points, I would literally have to put myself in time out. My family, pretty early on, became my rocks of support. Largely friends were supportive, though many just didn’t get it. Being ‘functioning’ in an alcoholic society (Britain) most people had no idea how deep my addiction lay, and why the hell I would ever not want to drink?! But it was worth it all. Over the months more and more positives kept shining through – I started seeing changes in how I viewed the world, and how I viewed myself. I looked back at the dangerous positions I’d put myself, how much I’d laughed at so many of my drunken (sexual) antics which were often incredibly dangerous and really down to my lack of self-worth, and ability to make a sensible decision. I wanted so much for me, my life.. and I was wasting so much time just being drunk. I thought being drunk made me creative when it strangled me and stopped me from doing much.
I had to learn to re-socialize again… that was a real struggle. Even then I didn’t realize how much of a crutch and social lubricant alcohol was for me. I thought I was pretty outgoing, but it took a lot of self-pep talks, deep breaths and just faking confidence until it actually became real confidence; realizing people would just have to take me as I was; that we all get awkward, stumble over words, and that’s okay. And no longer ‘needing’ to drink through situations and conversations I didn’t want to be – I would now walk away, or don’t go in the first place. Simple eh?!
Still, straight edge? Nah – not for me I thought. I didn’t understand the need or desire to define yourself as anything other than sober. But after exhausting literature and podcasts on female sobriety, I turned to one of the main loves of my life; hardcore, and started actively seeking out sXe bands, podcasts, books, zines… and I felt so empowered by the solidarity of other people getting ‘it.’ By this point, being drink & drug-free was an active positive choice, there was no fight not to drink anymore. I finally felt like the woman that little Weeze thought she would be, wanted to be – and despised the general tolerance and promotion for such destructive poisons in society. Finding people that felt the same, understood the need to stand up against this norm, just to not feel like such a weirdo defending myself most of the time. Seeing the massively positive changes in myself, coupled with the destruction caused both to individuals and in wider society, by booze & drugs, I started to understand and appreciate the label and the community. But I still didn’t actively call myself straight edge, even though I was starting to feel very much at home in that label.
So, towards the end of last year (2018) I booked myself in for a tattoo. Initially I wanted a standard hardcore X with LDN HC around it.. but in a split second lightning bolt moment I decided I wanted the straight edge X. I had that feeling when everything clicks into place – whether it’s make a huge plan, or a small decision, with that feeling I just KNOW in that instant that it’s the right one. So I got it tattooed. And it was perfect. I remember laughing and thinking to myself ‘shit just got real.’ Even though I knew I would never drink or take drugs again, this didn’t change that, but it did change something else. I felt proud, thinking of where I was, where I am, what I believe in, and feeling the most comfortable I have ever been in my body, in my mind.
Throughout my life, I’ve generally steered away from labeling myself – not because I think I’m ‘above’ labels or particularity unique (I’m not) but for most of my life I’ve had to deal with wrong pre-judgments and misconceptions because of the way I look and labels associated with me. I prefer to focus and talk more about the meaning and substance of what I do and believe in rather than ‘I AM X’, and it wasn’t until a month later, meeting some people at a Hardcore Festival in the Philippines, I was asked ‘are you straight edge?’ My previous response usually something along the lines of, ‘well technically I am I guess..’ changed to ‘yeh, yeh I’m straight edge.’ I giggled to myself and texted a sXe mate who’d been calling me edge since I gave up booze, saying I’d finally claimed it.
Sobriety was about me getting myself back on track; healthier, happier. Most of society wants you to drink, to be uncomfortable with yourself and I don’t buy into that bullshit anymore; for that, I am exceptionally grateful. Straight Edge is not all I am, it’s just a part of me, but a part that involves a wider community and movement that (in the most part, like anything involving a diverse group of people) I am very happy and proud to be associated with. Not only exposing drugs (including alcohol, the drug it is) for what they are, and the consequences they bring, but being part of a community that even though on the surface is about not doing things, generally focuses on what you are doing – whether its activism, creative projects, physical goals.. and is happy to just be, to go along with emotions and the hardships in life rather than trying to mask them with poisons. It’s about really focusing on what’s important and spending my time doing things I love, and being with people I love. That is why I am proud to be more than sober, but also straight edge.