Now I know, I know you don’t know what the heck straightedge is. Don't feel bad, no one does. That's not an exaggeration, I've literally met two people who know about it without me telling them.
But this coming Monday the 17th is Edge Day, so what better time is there to learn about straightedge?
Allow me to educate you. Created by the lead singer of the hardcore punk band Minor Threat, Ian MacKaye, straightedge is an alternative lifestyle in which one abstains from alcohol, nicotine, and drugs. The symbol of participants is X's on the back of your hands, though many choose to opt out of drawing them every day, and some of the more hardcore followers get three black X's tattooed on the inside of their bottom lip. The idea for the symbol came from the practice of drawing X's on the hands of minors at concerts so they wouldn't be sold alcohol.
Some variations of straightedge go as far as to cut out promiscuous sex, caffeine, prescription medication or even go vegan/vegetarian. But at its roots, straightedge is about keeping poisons out of your body and staying in control, free of addictions.
I found out about it when I was thirteen, back when I first got into pro wrestling. There was a guy who wrestled at the time named CM Punk, and he was straightedge. He talked about it a lot. At first I was I was thirteen and wasn't as interested; I didn't have a ton of experience with drinking or drugs. But that guy very soon became (and still is) my favorite wrestler, and I began to notice the ways in which being straightedge shaped his personality. I looked up to him. With each passing day, I became more and more enthralled and I began to wonder if straightedge was a thing I should try.
So at the time, maybe I thought it was cool because he did it.
It's not. It's not cool. I know it's not. I get made fun of and I'm the butt of a lot of jokes, I get told that I'm boring and I don’t know how to have a good time, but it's not about being cool to me.
I first decided to commit to it after being admitted to Children's Hospital for chronic migraine headaches. While I was there, they did a spinal tap and put me on laughing gas. As soon as the effects of the gas started to hit me, I began to lose control of what I was thinking and saying. Words just fell out of my mouth, and at the time it was funny, but after I came down, it scared me. Losing control like that, I had no judgment, I had no way of stopping myself from saying something I didn't want to say.
Suddenly the world was completely out of my hands, and I was terrified.
The very next day, I started drawing the X's on my hands. At first, I was embarrassed of it, and when asked about it, I would reply with, "Why don't you have x's on your hands??"
I was in the eighth grade and I didn't want people to think that I was weird, or lame, or boring. But slowly, I learned that the people who were going to judge me for being straightedge were not the kind of people I wanted in my life. I didn't need to be friends with people who think that you can only have a good time at a party if you're drunk. I didn't need to hang around people that were going to shame me for choosing to live my life differently than they did.
And as I started being more open with my choice to be straightedge, I started to understand what CM Punk had been talking about. I looked at the people around me, kids my own age acting like idiots and making poor choices, and I felt reaffirmed in my own decision.
"I don't smoke, I don’t drink, I don't use drugs. That may be boring for some people, but that's just me. That's how I live my life. That stuff never appealed to me and I never understood getting so messed up that you can't even walk home or remember the previous night. I choose to live my life without it."
Not to mention, straightedge was one of the things that got me clean from self-harm. My dad approached me with the question, "How is cutting any different than drinking or smoking?" I had no real answer. Even though it was months after he initially asked me that I finally started making the effort to get clean, that question never really left my mind.
Being straightedge is what made me realize that addiction is addiction, no matter what way you spin it. Drinking, drugs, cigarettes, self-harm, gambling, it's all the same. I choose to live my life without it.
Because I am able to see that now, I am over two years clean.
So even though I constantly have to explain and re-explain the X's on my hands, even though I lost friends and don't get invited to parties, I've never looked back since that day in Children's Hospital. I don't regret my decision, and I don’t think about changing my mind. It's a commitment I've made to CM Punk, to the edge scene, but more than that, to myself. A commitment to never let anything take control of me. Never again.