Claiming the edge

31/01/2024

Helsinki, 17th January
The first time I heard the term "straight edge", it was almost 30 years ago. And I remember thinking to myself: "OK, I'll never be part of that".



At the time, I was this kind of left-wing teenager, I was into skateboarding, smoking and doing stupid things. We were listening to punk rock and hardcore rock, including the band Minor Threat, who came up with the expression 'straight edge' (which refers to the fact of not consuming alcohol, tobacco or other drugs, and has since become a lifestyle often associated with animal rights and anti-fascism, ed.). My friends and I respected people who did that, it just wasn't our cup of tea. I was a big fan of alcohol, weed and so on. What we wanted to do was party and have a good time. That was how I wanted to live my life!



And that's exactly what I did. I was drinking so much.



Then one day, four years ago, I found myself in a terrible state. I woke up in the bathroom, with vomit everywhere and my fiancée asking: "Ville, what's going on?" It just clicked. It was the kind of situation where you're at a crossroads with only two possible directions. In my case it was either I quit drinking and everything that goes with it, or I die.



My dad was an alcoholic. After I turned 30, I realised that I was doing exactly the same things that my father did and that I hated when I was young. I was repeating the same mistakes and they were getting bigger and bigger. Being completely intoxicated at 17, 25 and 42 isn't the same thing, it has a different flavour.



So on the 14th December 2019, I stopped everything.



The first few months were awful. I'm not going to lie, it was more than difficult. Then, I suddenly came across the straight edge concept again. I started thinking about it and I said to myself: "I've stopped drinking, I've stopped smoking, I've never been racist, I'm a vegetarian. It happened almost by accident, but it turns out I am straight edge now!".



This turned my life upside down. Before that, all the good things happened to me after midnight; now they happen in the morning. My social circle has changed. I'm no longer the person you call on a Friday night. You have to be prepared to feel a bit lonely.



On the other hand, all the best things that have happened in my life happened after that. For example, I'm a photographer and a musician, and I'm convinced that things wouldn’t be going that well today with my band MOON SHOT and my photo assignments if I hadn't gone straight edge. Not consuming products that are harmful to my body allows me to have so much energy for other things, with a clear and positive mind, to always be myself and on the same level. People trust me.



I’m not saying it’s better to be straight edge than sober -or not sober- but that's something else. Being straight edge isn't just about abstinence. You can be sober, but still be racist or sexist; you can't be straight edge and behave like an arsehole.



It's going to sound cheesy, but for me straight edge is the look in my eyes which, if I met a stranger late at night in a dark corridor, says straight away to the other person: "I'm here, I'm not going to hurt you or do anything bad to you, I'll help you if you need, you’ll help me if I need". It's about being able to not misbehave when you could and feeling compassion for someone no matter where they come from. It's also the conviction that we don't deserve any better than anyone else, and therefore acting according to this idea of equality.



I don't picture straight edge people with halos around their heads. We're just as selfish as everyone else, if not more so. But in these self-centred and consumerist times, this lifestyle is a bit of a rebel attitude. Straight edge is also about being able to say no.



When people grow old, they often give up on their dreams and think "I can't change things, so I'm going to buy a car and have three children". I'm 42 and I still have this rather naive approach to life, which consists of saying that you can have an impact on the world. I'm not the kind of guy who stands on the front line of the barricades, but that's something I carry in me.

Ville

Today, Ville proudly wears a cap bearing the words “straight edge”, but it took him a year before he publicly identified himself as such, for “fear of drinking again”. As this Finnish photographer and musician prepares a book on his journey from heavy drinking to a lifestyle free of ethanol, tobacco and meat, he reflects on his life before and after.

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