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Phish Frontman Trey Anastasio Speaks To Drug Court Graduates

By McCarton Ackerman 06/20/16

The founding member of Phish has praised the drug court program for saving his life after his 2006 drug arrest in Whitehall, New York.

Phish Frontman Trey Anastasio Speaks To Drug Court Graduates
Photo WikiCommons/Dan Shinnemanwikicommons

Nearly a decade after graduating from drug court and getting sober, Phish frontman Trey Anastasio returned to the site of his graduation to speak with other recent graduates of the program.

Anastasio was arrested in Whitehall, New York, in December 2006 and charged with driving while under the influence of drugs, misdemeanor drug possession, and aggravated unlicensed operation. Instead of jail time, he was allowed to attend the Washington County Felony Drug Court program, followed by three years probation. He completed the drug court program in 2008.

The Phish frontman praised the program for saving his life and encouraged the recent graduates to take advantage of the opportunity, according to the Post-Star. “I thought I would come in here and say, ‘I’m sober,’ and get to go home,” said Anastasio. “At the time, I thought this was the worst thing that ever happened to me. Today, it’s without a question the best thing that ever happened to me.”

Anastasio has made periodic appearances over the years to speak with graduates. He remains in recovery to this day, attending regular Alcoholics Anonymous meetings in New York City and even taking on sponsors in the program.

“The night I got arrested, I couldn’t go 10 minutes without taking something,” he said during the graduation speech. “Nine years later, I don’t think about drinking or drugging anymore.”

Anastasio continues to keep in touch with his case manager, Melanie Gulde, and Charlie DeVries, a former case manager at the drug court who has since retired. He told the graduates that he intends to “come back anytime I can. It’s an honor. It’s such a great program. Every community in America should have one.”

The musician's sobriety was a major factor in Phish reuniting after their breakup in 2004. The band reunited in 2009 and have completed several nationwide tours since. They’re back on the road this week to kick off their summer tour in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Plenty of Phish fans have followed Anastasio's influence. A group of clean and sober fans of the band have joined an online “Phellowship” to offer information and support for “anyone who wishes to remain clean and sober at shows.” The group has accumulated over 1,100 members since launching.

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.

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