I was an out-of-shape, cigarette smoking, fast food eating, over weight, thirty something father of three. Two years later, I’ve dropped 30 pounds, quit smoking, eating healthy, and just finished my first half marathon. I feel like I’ve transformed more than Optimus Prime. What’s my secret you may ask? It’s the music of Phish. Hard to believe but it’s true. Most people would assume Phish would have the opposite effect, but for me, it has been the driving force of a transformation that has probably saved or at least extended my life.
It started with a routine trip to the doctor’s office for my first physical in 5 or 6 years. Doc said pretty much every red flag for heart disease was waving furiously above my head. He recommended I go on medication to control my cholesterol, and basically stay on it for the rest of my life. Dang. Thirty six and on the same meds as my 61 yr old father. Depressing. I refused. I asked him if there was any chance I could just change my ways and improve my situation. He said that was exactly what he was hoping I’d say, and thus starts my journey.
Stopping the smokestack in my lungs was the first order of business. Not easy. I’d tried to quit a dozen or more times over the years, but all of a sudden I had the right motivation to make it stick. In the past, I would quit for a few weeks or months, and then fall apart at a guy’s night out or a rock concert or something and resume my addiction. This time, knowing I just had to quit for my health and my family, I was faced with similar circumstances.
I had been off the cancer sticks for about 10 months when I went to Phish Festival 8 in Indio, CA on Halloween weekend. With 40 or so shows already under my belt, I had been craving some Phish big time after their four and a half year hiatus. Not since my wedding have I looked forward to an event more than this. With no concerts scheduled anywhere near my home in southern California for their return tour, a trip out to the desert for three days was the perfect remedy. My buddy TW and I went all out, with a 31 foot RV, my Elvis costume, and enough liquor to drop an elephant. In the back of my new brain, I knew this would be a huge challenge for me to not smoke. But if I could make it through the weekend, I would clear a huge hurdle on my way to becoming an ex-smoker. I’d learned my lesson, and yes, I still remember the last one, but this time will be different. Every time I would think about cutting a grit, I would look up at Trey and the boys on stage and get wrapped up in all their passion and creativity. Lose myself if you will. It was a level of enthusiasm and joy I had not seen in those 4 men in quite a while. The shows were amazing and new. The concert field was incredible. It was complete sensory nirvana. They had achieved something different, something unique and something far better than what I last saw in them when I made a pilgrimage to Alpine Valley in June ’04 for what I thought would be my last Phish shows. I fed off the energy they created, and it helped me forget about my hunger for a smoke. Granted, 140 lit palm trees, 100 foot high walls of light floating in the sky over my head, and oil rigs shooting 20 foot high flames into the air didn’t hurt (Kuroda was on fire). Still, the evolution of the band would be a central motivator in my life makeover. Quit smoking? Check.