I’ve been writing this in parts over the week and its very disjointed and ineloquent so I will probably continue editing it for a while as its important to me.. but for the curious here you are:
I had been straightedge my whole life. Up until last Sunday I had never tasted alcohol except off my boyfriend’s lips.
After 22 years, what changed? Nothing. Maybe me. I don’t know.
I started calling myself straightedge at 14, when my Mom saw an interview on the subject with Bif Naked on MTV and told me about it. Maybe it was a bit early, I hadn’t drank yet but I wasn’t interested in doing so either. I don’t know why but even in middle school when making friends was so hard I still closed doors by turning down the cool kids’ mystery cocktails when I was lucky enough for them to offer – but finally I had a name for it! A whole community gathering around the lonely concept of a drug-free lifestyle! The information and groups I found on the internet gave me strength.
At 15 I had my first real test when a guy I was interested in told me he could never get close to me if we didn’t drink together. I still never considered drinking, I just got angry that he was trying so hard to change my mind. He was right though, we never got close, even my first mohawk wasn’t enough to hold his interest but this first denial left an impression on me. My young mind wrapped itself around the concept of never being able to understand a person who drinks when you don’t and it stuck. Its at least partially truthful anyway, so it was easy to believe.
Later that year I fell in love for the first time with Shawn, an 18yo punk rocker and alcoholic. Maybe calling him an alcoholic is dramatic, but at 15/16 isn’t everything? The whole relationship was borderline abusive anyway, but the way he kept promising to quit drinking because he loved me so much then the next night when he called me puking made me wonder what I was doing wrong. I tried so hard to give him enough love to take the place of whatever he needed so badly from alcohol but it was never enough. So, through this encounter I felt jealous of and fucking angry at alcohol. There was a line in the sand and everyone I knew had to pick me or it. I made myself a lonely girl.
The next few years everything stayed status quo. I left the 40oz punk scene and couldn’t make it in the hXc world most sXe kids belong in, so I listened to taking back sunday and dated the one other straightedge kid in my town. We went to Denny’s on the weekends and hung out with our small group of friends playing video games and were happy – nothing else was necessary. This was my proof the a straightedge existence could work! I would never have to change my ways! It was fantastic.
Then I left for college.
I went to a few parties my freshman year. It was lonely. I even considered asking a few people if I could bum cigarettes just so I could talk to them. It’s such an easy way to meet people and I resented them for their immediate common interest. For the first time in 4 years I began to question my beliefs, but I was seriously depressed and didn’t want that to be the reason I caved.. so I held onto the edge until at a pre-game at a friend of a friend’s when someone said “you’re straightedge? well collEDGE will fix that! HAHAHA” and just like that I dug my heels back in. Its a pretty silly thing, such a small meaningless encounter.. but my gut reaction of complete disgust and hatred made me remember how I felt deep down. I didn’t want to do it for anyone but me and I wasn’t curious so why should I? Just to meet people? Just to make friends? I knew I could do that anyway.. it just took longer. It would be worth it. A year or two later that same guy snuck my little sister a beer while she was visiting. Asshole.
So, somehow through college I justified not drinking. I had enough problems getting through classes, why add the load extra load that came with drinking? I could hardly afford to eat, why pay extra to drink? I had enough chemical imbalances in my body naturally, why fuck with it further? There were so many reasons, most of which was that I just wasn’t interested. I saw kids weekend after weekend at parties wasted and retarded, cheating on their boyfriends or girlfriends or just hooking up with strangers, puking and pissing all over the place or simply saying hurtful things they didn’t mean to say – they were like animals and I didn’t want to be like them. NOW just to be clear – especially to all my college friends who may read this – I’m not saying everyone at every party was like this but you know it was present and to a straightedge kid currently disgusted with everything alcoholic it was hard to miss, besides you were drunk anyway and you probably didn’t notice it like I did – HAHAJK.
That whole description in itself leads me to the other part of how it was difficult to make friends – people who drink simply do not trust people who don’t. I learned this at the ripe at of 15! And college made it all the more obvious. Drunk people don’t want a sober person to witness their shenanigans, especially one who has never drank before and can’t relate back to a stupid night they themselves had. When I was around people who drink were made to think what I must see them like, and they didn’t like that picture – but they didn’t want to stop drinking! Heavens no! So instead of thinking about what an idiot they were going to be after they downed their booze, they’d rather not have me around. When you’re getting drunk enough to not remember what you’re doing, why would you want someone there who can tell you exactly what you did and how stupid you looked/sounded/were? I get it. I’m not trying to be an asshole here, it just sucked to be ostracized until you could gain a person’s trust enough so they know you’re not constantly judging their every drunken move.
So somewhere along the line, I actually managed to make friends who liked me so much that they didn’t mind if I watched them drink! And these friends, I liked so much sober that I still liked them drunk. And so college went. I eased up on judging people and they liked having me around.
Boyfriends who drank however, that was still a difficult bridge to cross. Really it was anyone I cared about drinking that upset me, best friends included. Ever since Shawn hurt me, I felt that same pang of distrust whenever someone I loved drank. They were the ones with the potential to really hurt me, which I was constantly afraid of anyway.. It broke my heart again and again, but I knew I couldn’t only love straightedge people so I had to work on getting over it. I got better. I met Mark and he smoked and drank and I loved him and I knew I didn’t have the ability to control him. He loved to drink and he never abused it, why should I even try to take that away from him? So, I had to swallow it and deal with it. I had to ignore those pangs as best I could. They lessened with time. It was good for me. Instead of just handling my friends drinking I enjoyed going out with them and being the driver of the drunk bus – it was finally FUN! But as college went on and I lost two more of my straightedge comrades, I had to continually reassure myself that this is what I wanted.
Finally the pressure to drink had lifted, I could really truly decide for myself. I knew I wanted to get out of college first. I didn’t want to ever be a part of that scene drunk – I didn’t trust myself enough to know I wouldn’t overdo it and join in on some overly-stupid stuff. So I’ve been graduated for 3 months now, living in Chicago with a group of my closest friends and Mark all of which drink like grown ups and just enjoy themselves. This is the type of drinking I can understand, this is what I want – but I was still scared, there were still pangs and I still hated alcohol. I knew the only way I could ever begin to mend a relationship with the substance was to try it. I came very close a few times, and then recoiled upon my hate but this past weekend.. I don’t know why now.. but I knew I had to just close my eyes and jump in. It was scary.
I only had one and a half woodchuck ciders while playing uno with a few friends and I only felt it for a small bit, but lifting that bottle to my lips was so terrifying. I’m glad I didn’t overdo it on the first night. It left me curious – this can’t be what the big deal is all about, is it? So the next night at Delilah’s I tried a pineapple vanilla vodka, which was ok, and an amaretto sour which was finally something tasty but I still wasn’t feeling anything major.. so I sucked down another amaretto sour and once I saw the bottom of it, things were a completely different story. I realized I was drunk and started crying. It was different than I had expected, though I don’t know what I was expecting – something evil to posses me I guess, but it was just me, just a little more wobbly a little more friendly with a much stronger desire to shout the ric flair WOOOOO! throughout the bar. It was fun, I couldn’t deny that by any means and I admitted a few times that I had been terribly wrong my whole life – which is quite a bit of an exaggeration.
I’ve tried a few more drinks since those first experiences and I’m still figuring things out. It’s good for me and exciting to be trying new things. I haven’t said no to much – Chubs says that Sarah trying beer is like watching a cat cleaning itself as I tend to try using the salt on my hands and arms to get rid of the taste – effing gross beers. I’m still undecided on how I feel about it overall, I don’t understand why its always been such a big deal or how people blame their dumb party antics on it(but maybe i just haven’t been drunk enough yet), but I’m happy with my choice and I’m trying to keep all doors open for a change.. so far it feels good.