My Summer Vacation: I Drank and Smoked in Idaho

By Stanton Peele 08/06/15

While on summer vacation with my friend Larry, I came up with a mountain treatment program that just might work. 

Stanton Peele and Larry
Larry and Stanton Photo Credit: Tim Hohs

I met Larry in 1968 studying Japanese in a summer program at Stanford. Larry went on to live in Japan for four years and to teach Japanese. 

I didn’t do as well mastering the language.

Larry is originally from Boise, ID. He now lives outside of Council, ID, a couple hours north of Boise in an area surrounded by mountains. Larry lives in a house that he built for his wife and him (he is divorced). He is part of an active group of nearby former hippies, now settled down as retired teachers and organic farmers. Together, they hunt and fish and hike and have barbecues at Larry’s house.  

When I visit, I join in these activities. On this last trip, Larry and I rafted on the Salmon River, swam in local rivers and reservoirs with Larry’s two dogs, hiked a local mountain with his friends where I swam in a high-mountain lake, and went to the Starkey Hot Springs Pool in nearby Fruitvale. (Starkey was recently purchased by Whole Foods, which bottles its mineral water. The pool remains open—$3 admission.) 

This year I helped Larry judge the Council Porcupine Race on July 4th. Then we had a barbecue where several people wrote poems dedicated to Larry. This was mine:

To Have A Friend, Be A Friend

Larry's favorite quote to me,

To Have A Friend, Be A Friend

He leans back on his lawn chair with his 

knickers drying in the breeze on the line nearby

To Have A Friend, Be A Friend

We drink his home brew and smoke cigars

To Have A Friend, Be A Friend

Maybe even look at some stars (NO, we don’t stay up that late!)

To Have A Friend, Be A Friend

Could this be some kind of trend?

Why do I say that, you ask?

Because Larry is surrounded by friend

To Have A Friend, Be A Friend

This was Tim’s poem:


Here’s a poem for Larry

he’s a happy old dude;

smokes cigars and drinks whiskey,

knows one joke and it’s crude. 

He’s a bit of a carpenter, 

a kind of mechanic,

could stand in for a shrink

if you get in a panic.

He can grill a mean steak

but it’s sure a no-brainer,

he would win no awards

as an animal trainer.

I could go on all night

but what’s true in the end,

the best thing about Larry is

he’s such a great friend.


Brings tears to your eyes, doesn’t it?

As these poems suggest, Larry—and I—in addition to all of our hiking and swimming, sit on his lawn (see picture) drinking his home-brew beer and, occasionally, bourbon, and smoke cigars. We do that in the morning and the early evening. Oh, we also actively converse. We are in bed before 10, and get up at five.

But, before a cigar and beer in the morning, the first thing we do is something Larry and I created—flash yoga. It is brief, 15-20 minutes, but energizing. Larry learned yoga from a local woman and friend who teaches a class that Larry originally attended to be supportive (remember, Larry’s a good friend). But he credits it with his flexibility and the elimination of his back pain.

We eat meat from animals Larry has shot, or that neighbors have raised, fish he or other locals catch, and vegetables and berries Larry and his friends grow in their gardens. Larry and I are both healthy (Larry’s 71, I’m 69), although I’m not in the kind of shape Larry is. Larry stands out even among his hiking friends, scampering up and down mountains with his dogs. Oh, after the hikes, we all sit around in the parking area drinking beer and eating homemade salsa and chips. I’ve hiked with a dozen or so people with Larry. I’ve never seen anyone turn down a beer.

Larry is coming to visit me in the fall. As we planned the trip, I realized that there would be no opportunity to smoke cigars. My landlady doesn’t permit smoking in my apartment or in the small yard in front of my house. It is illegal to smoke in parks or at the beach in New York City. Smoking is prohibited in bars.

Those laws were initiated by former Mayor Mike Bloomberg, and I agree with them. They were passed, amidst quite a bit of controversy, so I and others won’t have to confront second-hand smoke. The laws also reduce consumption for most individuals who smoke, which is a net positive. But what about those cigars and beers Larry and I enjoy smoking and drinking outdoors!

Back to Idaho, Larry has had friends with substance use problems, friends whom he has tried to help. One joined AA, and relapsed. Another went to a rehab program for a week a couple of years ago, but didn’t like it. He is now retired and is dependent on booze and prescription meds. This man is isolated and inactive.

My suggestion to Larry: “Invite Mike to stay with you for a week or two. Tell him he can drink with you morning and evening, one drink each time. But the rest of the day will be spent in your usual whirlwind of activities—looking after your garden and home, socializing and hiking and doing yoga with your friends, reading and talking (Larry doesn’t have cable and only watches Antiques Road Show because I force him to).

Disclosure: I developed and was clinical director for a residential rehab that was entirely abstinent. But, as I made our aftercare workers aware, many, if not most, graduates would use again. The issue was to prevent any use from escalating into a full-blown relapse that would recreate the state at which they entered our rehab.

What do you think of my plan for Larry’s Mountain Retreat Rehab Program? A bit nontraditional, I warrant. But does it make sense to send Larry’s friend back to a program he has already been to, which failed for him, and which he dislikes?

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Stanton Peele, Ph.D., J.D., is the author (with Ilse Thompson) of Recover! An Empowering Program to Help You Stop Thinking Like an Addict and Reclaim Your Life. His Life Process Program is available online. His book Addiction-Proof Your Child is a model for the emerging area of harm reduction in addiction prevention. Stanton has been innovating in the addiction field since writing Love and Addiction with Archie Brodsky. He has published 12 books, and has won career awards from the Rutgers Center of Alcohol Studies and Drug Policy Alliance. You can find him on Linkedin and Twitter.