For all of you who have been clamoring for them, here are the answers to the quiz on Uncle Ozzie's successfully quitting a 25-year-four-pack-a-day cigarette habit when someone said he was a sucker for the tobacco companies.

Blog Archive


The Stanton Peele Addiction Website, April 24, 2008. This blog post also appeared on Stanton's Addiction in Society blog at

Answers to Addiction Quiz: Homage to Uncle Ozzie

For all of you who have been clamoring for them, here are the answers to the quiz on Uncle Ozzie's successfully quitting a 25-year-four-pack-a-day cigarette habit when someone said he was a sucker for the tobacco companies.

1. Why did Ozzie quit smoking that day, based on a few words from a co-worker?

Everyone caught this - as in Yvonne's comment that he would be allowing "the powers he fought against" to control him. But Dr. Martin put it most brilliantly:

He was a militant union man being ridiculed by a co-worker for being a corporate pawn of the tobacco companies. And, he saw that the co-worker was right! Co-workers were important to him. I believe it was an epiphany! That's why he told the story in the first place.

2. How can a simple thought overcome a powerful quarter-century addiction?

Anonymous put this well: "Quitters are prompted by one impressive line of reasoning: the one that dictates how they see themselves and how they want others to see them." The juxtaposition of these images with how they actually appear can be intolerable, as they were for Ozzie.

My point is that, with the right leverage, you can move a mighty addiction. As Becky put it in her comment entitled, "Whatever strikes a chord,": "If we could readily identify those chords in other addicts we may be a lot closer to helping them quit harmful habits." But she is pessimistic about doing this: "The frustrating part is that the addicts themselves can't usually tell you what would make them quit because they don't know. Ozzie didn't know that comment would be the end of his smoking days."

3. Ozzie had a small daughter and a teen son, but he didn't quit smoking because of them, even though he was a good father. Why didn't he?

Good therapy encourages the addict to discover for himself a motivator to quit, rather than imposing the therapy's or counselor's values on the addict. As Becky put it in re Ozzie's attitude towards his kids: "We harp on the ‘do it for your kids' statements because we think those have universal appeal. The truth seems to be that even the most devoted father might not. . . . It doesn't make the addict a bad father, it's just not the right chord to play." Just like militant unionism wouldn't be the cure for everyone's addiction.

At the same time we should remember, per Dr. Martin: "At the time he quit smoking, there was no publicized evidence that second hand cigarette smoke could hurt his family. None. It was not considered dangerous." Given Ozzie's devotion to his family, I agree he would likely have quit on these grounds as well at a later point.

4. What about Ozzie's withdrawal?

Anonymous was great on this one: "The chemical dependency alone would have provided at least two weeks of withdrawal. That said, Ozzie was apparently a very busy, very determined man. Once he heard the tobacco companies were laughing at every nickel he gave them, every withdrawal symptom was probably paltry compared to his desire to get back at the bad guys. (It was his life, after all.)"

This gets to the idea of reframing cravings as symbols of virtue. When I asked Ozzie how hard it was to stay off the cigs, he told me, "For a few days I woke up in the middle of the night and thought, ‘I can just go down and get a cigarette.' But I didn't."

You might say Ozzie had superhuman determination and self-control. But he didn't seem that way when he was standing there incessantly puffing on Pall Malls while he worked so that he constantly smelled of tobacco. He was just waiting for his better side - the true Ozzie - to appear.

5. Describe Ozzie's behavior from the framework that addiction is a chronic brain disease.

This one gets everybody's hobby horses (especially mine). For Yvonne, whose answer to the last question was, "What was just a decision," the answer here is "It is chronic indecision, that is all." Yvonne apparently belongs to that school of thought which dislikes the idea of addiction as a disease (as I do), but then substitutes the non-sequitur that "addiction is a choice." That's just not true to lived experience: when you say someone is addicted to something and can't quit despite harming themselves, everyone knows what you mean.

Anonymous is at the other extreme, insinuating that Ozzie's resolve was the only time in history a person ceased an addiction on their own: "Now, if only the rest of us could kick our habits so easily." All right, so maybe Anonymous isn't Nora Volkow. But the fact is, people do what Ozzie did all the time - half of all addicted smokers quit, ninety percent of those without treatment - that's 40 million people right there. And a HIGHER percentage of heroin, crack, cocaine, and alcohol addicts (although this involves smaller absolute numbers of people) self-cure their habits.

If there is an overall point for Nora Volkow to incorporate down at the NIDA, it is that Ozzie's life could never be captured in an MRI. Was Ozzie's unionism visible in his brain, could neurology tell us how he would interpret and respond to his co-worker's chance remarks, what was it about Ozzie that made sure he didn't relapse? Addiction is so fundamentally human and experiential that it can never be reduced to - and certainly not predicted by - a brain scan.

But you blogees gave great answers. And my obvious love and admiration for Ozzie seemed to come through. Per Yvonne: "he was a caring man." According to Dr. Martin, who met Ozzie: "He was a kind and considerate Dad. None better." And from Joyce C. Hamilton: "Thank you for reminding me what a unique and fine person Ozzie was!"

Uh, excuse me . . . I've got to sign off. . . I've got something in my eye.