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Recovery Is Taking New Approaches to Old Problems

One of the pieces of clutter you bring with you into recovery is years or even a lifetime of poor problems solving.

Look at the diagram below:


.                 .                 .

.                 .                 .

.                 .                 .

It’s called the nine-dot problem.

The aim is to connect all the dots with four straight lines, never taking the pencil from the paper, so the four lines are connected and continuous.

Think about the problem, try to visualize it, experiment a few times before you give up. Very few people solve it without help or having previously solved it with help.

When you give up on solving this problem, look at the solution at the end.


There is a reason why this really simple problem is so difficult¹.

People try to solve it on the basis of an assumption; that the lines can’t go outside the square formed by the dots.

This probably reflects something about the way we are all taught to do geometric or special problems in our early school years.

You may have tried a dozen different ways of solving the problem but all of them were encased in this habitual, “standard” way of problem solving.


In recovery, it is only by discarding the old assumptions and looking at problems in a totally different light that a healthy life can begin.

Chemically dependent people are likely to have a difficult time staying clean if they persist in their old “standard” behaviors that so damaged their personal relationships.

As the Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) saying goes: “If you keep doing what you were doing before, you’ll keep getting what you got before.”

[Solution to the nine-dot problem: Place your pencil tip on the right lower dot; draw a straight line through the center dot and rest at the top left dot; draw south through the first and second dot and stop a distance that a third invisible dot would be placed; draw a third straight line up through the middle bottom dot and middle right side dot and rest at an invisible dot to the right of the top right dot; and draw your fourth and last straight line thru the top right dot, middle top dot and end at the top left dot.]

Reach Out

If you or a loved one wants to learn more about our substance abuse programs, please reach out to us today. Our admissions team is available 24/7 at (877)-RECOVERY or 877-732-6837 to answer your questions.


  1. Cocores JA, The 800-COCAINE Book of Drug and Alcohol Recovery. Villard Books, a division of Random House, Hardcover, 1990, pp.202-204, & Fireside Books, a division of Simon & Schuster, Paperback, 1991.


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