DRUGS Part 1: Why I didn’t use drugs.
I’m 37 years old, and I’ve never used drugs or alcohol. I’ve never even tried a cigarette. If I need to get really technical, as a young child I tasted some alcohol in the presence of adults, but nothing beyond that. I’ve spent my entire adult life associated with the “Straight Edge” lifestyle, despite the fact that I’ve never had much to do with the hardcore/punk music scene that most often accompanies that. I even got two Straight Edge tattoos when I was a teenager.
Why did I choose this lifestyle in the first place? I don’t know how conscious I was of the reasons at the time, but looking back I can pinpoint a few of them. Like many teenagers, I had a rebellious streak. Maybe more than most teens, in my case. Part of that rebellious streak leads many kids to experiment with smoking, drinking, and drugs. Not to mention obnoxious music, wacky hair styles, etc. But what happens when your Mom takes you to Iron Maiden concerts when you’re 10 years old, dresses like a Def Leppard groupie, and smokes pot on the railroad tracks with neighborhood teenagers? It was pretty clear that I could have gone along with some pretty inappropriate behavior with little in the way of negative consequences. So, I rebelled. I was the one that said “no thanks” when the joints were aimed my way. Everyone was drinking and getting high, so I wasn’t.
Also, I was afraid. Back in 1st or 2nd grade, there was a school assembly where the speaker brought in a display case full of drugs to show us. We were also shown a film that basically explained that if we took drugs, we would jump off of a building, or into an empty pool, and die. So, that was all I really needed to hear. Doing drugs after it was clear that I would eventually hop off a building and die would be totally stupid, so guess I shouldn’t do that. The message seemed simple enough. While I eventually saw enough proof that those tales may have been exaggerated, I saw enough death, destruction, and generally abhorrent behavior to know that there was something to it.
Lastly, there is the issue of control. This may have been the most important one for me. By the time I was deep into my High School experience, I had settled into a group of friends and acquaintances that seemingly needed drugs and booze to do pretty much anything. While I was just looking to hang out, listen to music, be creative, pick up girls, and goof off, everyone else was overtaken with the urgent need to scrounge up money for booze and drugs. Then they had to figure out a way to actually procure the stuff, and decide where they were going to consume it. After all that was over, they’d spend countless hours retelling the stories of how they got it, where they did it, and what stupid shit they did once they were high and drunk. I was surrounded by a flock of idiotic, single-minded zombies. As an outsider to this behavior, it was extremely frustrating. Actually, it made everyone seem lame as fuck. As this difference in priorities continued over time, the chasm between all of my “friends” and I grew. I started to feel isolated (which is a feeling that continues to this day), and I just felt generally shitty toward most of them. They didn’t seem like good people. They seemed stupid. They seemed… less. I watched as they got pudgy and predictable. I watched as they fell down on the ground and threw up. I listened close as they used the drinks and drugs as excuses for all kinds of embarrassing behavior. Hell, even some deadly behavior. Anyone remember Ken Nechaj?
I wasn’t buying it. You can’t choose to do something that you know removes your control of a situation and then ask to be excused because you weren’t in control. I liked being in control of myself. I wanted to know that everything I did, right or wrong, was a conscious choice. After all I’d seen, I certainly didn’t trust anyone to keep my well-being in mind if I let my guard down and lost that control of myself. And frankly, I wouldn’t feel good allowing myself to sink to the level that everyone else had become accustomed to. It was ugly, immature, and I felt like I was above it all. As we fast forward 20+ years, these characters have developed in various ways. Most are still pudgy and predictable. A few turned into crazy Jesus-freaks in order to replace the addiction with a different, weirder one. There’s at least one pill-popping pothead rockstar-wannabe who still lives with his Mom and Dad while being thrown out of several bands. Some fill their bellies and Instagram accounts with countless bottles of beer, like trophies for people who sit down a lot. Some are dead. And many of them are “normal” functioning adults, married to women who aren’t as fun as they used to be, still taking every available opportunity to guzzle down as much booze as possible as they gather together for whichever sporting event is popular at the moment. For whatever reason, despite growing up in the same place at the same time as these people, there’s always been this big separation (along with a bunch of others) between us.
These are just some of the factors that led me to being Straight Edge and kept me there for all these years. So, why is this coming up now? Hard to say exactly, but I’m having some thoughts about what my future looks like in regards to this topic. I’ll elaborate on those thoughts soon.