In my counselling practice in Victoria BC, I work with many people who want to look at their relationships with substances and other behaviours. In examining these relationships/behaviours, people can determine for themselves if they are problematic, and if they are, they then have an opportunity to create a new relationship with them.

A quick, 4 question assessment tool called CAGE can get this conversation started: I like this tool because it is subjective and invites reflection, rather than comparison. Although CAGE was originally designed to assess for ‘alcoholism’, I think that it can be applied to many behaviours and relationships (such as technology usage, work, exercise, television) that can become unhealthy and negatively impact our life.

I have paraphrased the CAGE questions to make them applicable to a broader range of behaviours: the more questions answered yes, the more likely the relationship or behaviour could use some attention.

  1. Have you ever tried to cut down on ______?
  2. Do you get angry when people talk to you about ______?
  3. Have you ever felt guilty about ______?
  4. Have you ever felt the need to do ______ first thing in the morning?

When I think about many of the relationships we have, such as the internet, or work, or food, it is likely that many would answer yes to two or three of these questions. These and other relationships in our lives can be complicated, and the steps to be taken to improve things, are often unclear. I also know that our relationships require care and attention because it is our relationships with people, places and things that add or subtract from the quality of our life. If you want to continue this exploration, beginning the conversation with yourself and those who care about you opens the possibility for successful change. Many people find the support of a good therapist can be invaluable in their change process.