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Permalink Posted by John Stearns on , attached to 2002-12-31
Phish.Net contributor(Published in the second edition of The Phish Companion...)

It all started one year earlier. Actually, Super Bowl Sunday 2002. I started hearing voices and having symptoms of schizophrenia. I spent two weeks in the hospital and after they finally got the medication right they let me out. I lived fine for about six months.
Right around the time the tickets for Madison Square Garden went on sale, I stopped taking the medication. I was really lucky to get tickets over the phone the day they went on sale. A few weeks later I ended up in the hospital again when the voices and symptoms just took control again. I was in the hospital for six weeks and got out on Dec 10th, the week Phish was on Saturday Night Live with Al Gore.
I was completely broke from not working for the previous six weeks. I had been sober for two months and I really, really wanted to make it to MSG. For Christmas, my parents gave me $250 and a ticket to a Big Wu show in Minneapolis on the 27th. During the setbreak of the Big Wu show, my friend called me on my cell phone and told me that he didn’t want to go to New Year’s anymore and that he gave his ticket away to a friend. So I had no ride.
I got home from the Big Wu show and almost started crying. I turned on “Strange Design”, a song that has helped me deal with schizophrenia all along. But instead of crying I started laughing. I was sitting on two tickets for the first Phish show in two and a half years, and all I wanted to do was bring a few companions on this ride.
A little later my friend Jason called me and he was more then happy to be my companion along with his girl. We left for Chicago the next day, picked up Annie, and headed out to New York. We got outside of MSG and it was very crowded. Everyone was looking for a ticket. I split up with Jason and Annie right when the doors opened. Annie didn't have a ticket and Jason was going to help her find one.
I got inside and sat down and just loved the pre-show music. Every song just made me feel so good. Some of the songs I remember were the Welcome Back Kotter theme song, “It Feels Like the First Time”, and “The Boys Are Back in Town”.
It was getting closer to show time and I was still by myself. I figured I was a big boy and I could handle being by myself for this show. But right as the lights turned out, I saw Jason about fifty feet away. I ran over to him and gave him a huge hug. Right then, the band walked onstage and the crowd noise was so overwhelming that you couldn’t hear what the band was playing, or if they even were playing.
The crowd noise died down and it was “Piper”. The song was just building and building and right around when Phish starts singing the lyrics to “Piper” I just started balling. After all I went through since the last time I was at a Phish concert, they were finally back and I was free from being in the hospital and free from schizophrenia.
I spent the entire show completely sober and danced the entire show. The biggest treat for me was when they played “Strange Design”, the song that was the key to my recovery. I’ve never had a show I attended be so important.
Score: 34

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