Network of Support

A Free Workbook for Shoplifters

Develop a Network of Support

Before you begin this page, please review my DISCLAIMER.  This website is not intended to render clinical, legal or other professional services, and should not be considered – in any way – a substitute for legal advice, professional therapy/counseling, or group therapy.

It is vital in the early stages of your recovery to develop a support network to help you overcome your theft addiction. You can accomplish much by working alone. However, you can increase your odds of success by enlisting the help of a support network.

“You will be the same person in five years as you are today
except for the people you meet and the books you read.”
– Charlie “Tremendous” Jones

Our goal is to be a person who does not steal. The people you meet on your pathway to recovery will be a strong influence in your quest to overcome your addiction to theft. Do not overlook the power you have at your fingertips. You will find that joining forces with others can make the journey to a theft-free life much more tolerable, and you can even find joy along the way.

Many people struggle to develop a network of support. It will probably be difficult for you to find key people who will help you. Your brain will most likely invent many “good reasons” as to why you “cannot” find people to help you. Keep in mind, therefore, that it is your responsibility to keep trying until you have your network of support assembled. The right people are out there just waiting for you to find them. Look for solutions, not excuses.

“Excuses are the nails used
to build the house of failure.”
– Unknown

“If it is important to you, you will find a way.
If not, you will find excuses.
– Unknown

Barriers Between You and the Support You Need

Let’s look at few mental barriers that stand between you and the people you will need to beat your addiction to theft.

Stealing is a secret that that is hard to reveal, even to those who want to help you. You have probably spent many hours of alone, planning and scheming, and hiding merchandise. It has all been a shameful secret. Now you have to tell your secret to others, and that is very difficult for many people. You will be integrating you public life with your secret life by trusting others.

John Howard Prin, in his book, ”Secret Keeping, Overcoming Hidden Habits and Addictions,” calls people with secret addictions, “secret keepers.” As you read his book you will find “people with good hearts and curious minds who are seeking, many times inappropriately, wholeness and fulfillment.” His book “tells stories of everyday working adults with families, homes, jobs, and responsibilities who are trapped in the dynamic stages of ‘stealing hours’ from their public lives. The risks, thrills, and taboo nature of their habits prove too strong to resist. By participating secretly in hidden activities that are shameful or stigmatizing, they risk their reputations. If anybody knew about their secret lives, their good standing in the community would be destroyed – and they are fully aware of that.”

“We are only as sick as our secrets.”
— Alcoholics Anonymous Recover Slogan 27

Take some time to think about how you have been lurking in the darkness, living a secret life that you have hidden from the world and the people who are close to you. Put your thoughts into words in the lines below. Make a commitment to come out of the darkness by telling your secret to key people who are part of your support network.

____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________

“Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another
human being the exact nature of our wrongs.”
— Alcoholics Anonymous – Step 5
“With a secret like that, at some point the
The secret becomes irrelevant.
The fact that you kept it does not.”
— Sara Gruen

The fear of being discovered by the wrong people is another obstacle to developing a support network. What if your employer found out? What family members found out? What if a secret enemy found out and posted it in FaceBook or on Google? There is a balance here that you must find, because your fear is not entirely unreasonable. It is advisable and wise to remain anonymous in your recovery whenever possible. Your secret heard by the wrong ears can do irreparable damage to your reputation and career. There is a distinct difference, however, between being secretive and maintaining anonymity. Some people in my support group are well known by first name, but have never provided anyone with their identity. Yet they have confessed all of their stealing secrets to the group. So give your first name only, and obtain an anonymous email address that does not have your full name in it. You can reveal your secret addiction without broadcasting your full identity to the world.

Take time now to get an email address that does not have full name in it. You can get a free email account by searching for Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo, and many others. Write down your new email account and password below.

____________________________________________________________________

Talk about the distinction between anonymity and secret keeping. Think through how you will remain anonymous as you work through your addiction to stealing and list some plans. ____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________

When I started on my journey to stop sealing I had no plan for anonymity. I used my email address with my full name in it. A good friend in my support group helped me to see the value in having a plan. I never had any problems resulting from my indiscretion of sharing too much identifying information, but it could have led to unintended trouble. Don’t live in fear and paranoia, but don’t advertise your theft addiction either. Balanced thinking is the key.

Be careful who you tell, as it can hurt you to tell the wrong people. Even your spouse or a family member can be the wrong person to tell. Take time to decide who you will include in you support network, and listen to your inner voice. It is better to walk alone for a short time of contemplation, than to invite an enemy to watch your back in a difficult and vulnerable journey.

Another obstacle to developing a support network is our desire to “go it alone.” We have been lone wolves, stealthily navigating in a private world. You have patted yourself on the back for being good at your craft. You have experienced the rush and thrill of making a “clean” getaway – alone. You have suffered the shame of violating your own inner moral code – alone. You now sit alone reading this material.

You must now move away from independence to interdependence. According to Stephen Covey, The natural order of gaining maturity is to move from dependence, to independence, to interdependence. (From the book, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.”) We are born completely dependent. Eventually we break free from our dependence on our parents and learn to provide for our own needs. However, maturity brings us to the point where we realize that we need other people, and other people need us. It is OK to admit that you need other people. It is OK to ask for help. It is OK to assume that you cannot do this alone.

“All have their worth and each contributes to the worth of the others.”
— J.R.R. Tolkien, The Silmarillion

Your turn. Do you feel like you want to get through this problem alone? Why? If not, why do you think your are now ready to get help from others? Do you feel that asking for help is a sign of weakness? Make a small commitment to seek the help of others.

____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________

Network Support Sources

It’s time now to look at some of the resources that are available to help you overcome your theft addiction.

Seek Counseling or Therapy

It is important to find the right professional counselor or therapist. As a starting point, contact Terrance Shulman at The Shulman Center for Compulsive Theft, Spending and Hoarding. Terry is a leading therapist in the field of compulsive theft, spending and hoarding. He has graciously offered to provide a free 15-minute consultation. He also offers ongoing specialized therapy on a fee basis. I recommend, at a minimum, that you do Terry’s one-hour evaluation. There he can advise you on how to proceed.

I recommend Terry Shulman because he and his materials were the key to opening my mind to the addiction I did not even know I had. His guidance helped me to find a path that led me to a life of integrity, and away from my life of stealing. I do not benefit from referrals to Terry, nor has he asked me for referrals. I recommend Terry because I believe he is the best place to start. He is someone who can help you establish a foundation to build your freedom from addiction upon.

Write down the results of your conversation with Terry below. (Remember that if you are not doing the work in this workbook, then you should not be surprised if you continue to steal. You can gage your commitment by the level of work you are willing to do. If you are just reading without working, you are not doing everything you can to stop stealing, and you are putting yourself at great risk. If you think that it won’t help you to write out your answers, then you are allowing your ego to get in the way of your success. Every good teacher will tell you that there is a magic that happens when your thoughts travel from you brain, through the heart, out of the hand, onto the page, into the eye, back through the brain, and settling in your heart. Do the work.)
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________

Choosing the right therapist is vital to overcoming your addiction. After you have spoken with Terry Shulman, you still may want a local therapist. Ideally, it is beneficial to you if you find a therapist who is experienced in theft addiction. If you are unable to find a therapist/counselor with experience in treating a stealing addiction, find one who is experienced in addiction in general. Most addictions are similar in nature.

I personally chose a local counselor whom I knew and trusted. I wanted face-to-face time. I had been to other counselors in the past, so I knew that I wanted somebody with whom I felt comfortable. Counselors come in all personality shapes, so you should shop around to find the right one for you. Don’t stop at the first one that you call, and don’t pick the first one you visit. Try to talk to and visit at least three counselor/therapists for a free consultation before making your selection. I know that sounds like a lot of trouble, but think of your therapist as a brain surgeon. After all, the therapist is there to get into your head and hopefully make major alterations in the way you think about life. That is certainly close to brain surgery.

Use Google and local directories now, and write down the contact information of the locations near you. Don’t leave this choice to chance.
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________

Keep in mind the following points when looking for the right therapist:

Take action on your first visit. See if the therapist can explain clearly his course of action, therapy style to be used, and how effective it has been for others suffering from the same addiction. Bring a notebook with you and take detailed notes. Later, compare your notes and make a decision. Does the counselor seem arrogant? Is he a good listener, or does he start “fixing” you before you feel she has understood you or the issue?

Look for therapists that can empower you to stand on your own two feet through the temptations to come. Therapy can also be addictive if the therapist is using methods that take away your independence and personal power, making you dependent on the therapy process. Good therapy does not solve your problems. Good therapy helps you to help yourself by providing you with insights into a new way t0 process your thoughts and emotions. Your counselor should lead you to a way of dealing with your life-issues is a healthy and constructive way, without making you reliant on the actual counseling sessions.

Help your therapist.  Bring Terry Shulman’s book, “Something for Nothing,” and look at the list on page 71. This list itemizes the top ten reasons people shoplift. Write down the possible reasons behind your shoplifting compulsion, and then prioritize the items in the list that apply to you. (For example, my list included eight of the ten items from page 71. “To compensate for over-giving” was at the top of my list.) Take your list to your counselor and it will help provide some insight into your mind, and give your counselor a specific direction to go in. Many counselors/therapists are not skilled in dealing with a shoplifting addiction, so you can help them to help you.

Write out your list below from page 71, and prioritize them.
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________

(I remind you again that if you have not purchased “Something for Nothing” and completed the work at the end of each chapter, you are stealing from and cheating yourself. I don’t mean to be harsh, but I have to help you to see when you are lying to yourself. This workbook should not be utilized as a substitute for Terry’s book.)

Enlist Your Spouse/Partner (?)

Should you tell your spouse/partner about your stealing addiction?

I had to tell my wife, and she graciously gave me a second chance to earn her trust back. It was a very low point in our relationship. I had betrayed her by keeping this secret, but I was determined show her that I could be trusted as be a man of integrity. Instead of running away, she became my primary support anchor. My precious wife has been the soul of my recovery and the inspiration for reaching out to help others. It was my wife who took the time to search the internet for answers to my problem, and it was she who found Terry Shulman’s website and book. Now, after nearly two years, we walk together and talk about all of the people I am able to reach and help through my site and support group efforts. I am so glad I told my wife, my best friend, and my loudest cheerleader.

“A spouse is not a destination, but a fellow traveler.”
— Sadghuru

On the other hand I know a lady in my support group who told her husband about her addiction, and it turned out to be a very negative thing for at least a while. The husband has used her past as a weapon against her. She has regretted telling him at times, but it cannot be undone. Was it the right thing to tell him?

A man in my support group told his partner about his stealing, and his partner felt so betrayed that he left him. Later, however, they were reunited and are together as of this writing. Now trust is being rebuilt because of a second change given. In this case it appears that it was best to tell all.

You have to make the choice. Should you open up and live with the consequences? Should you keep it a secret until you have made progress in staying theft-free for a period of time? Can you live with this secret and still have a healthy relationship with your spouse or partner? I don’t know. I recommend discussing your options with your therapist, but the final choice is yours alone. You cannot un-ring the confession bell. You can create your greatest ally, or your confession may become a source of pain and temptation to steal again.

Write down your thoughts about telling your spouse/partner about your theft addiction. Write about the benefits, and the potential drawbacks. Has your spouse/partner used previous confessions against you? Make a list of pros and cons, and then take time to think and meditate on the decision you must make.
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________

If you have decided to tell your spouse/partner about your addiction, then help them to understand your struggles. Have them read Terry Shulman’s book, “Something for Nothing,” or read it together. This will help them to understand more fully what you are going through. Your biggest divisive enemy is their potential inability to understand what your addiction really looks like. The book can do a lot of the talking for you, and it does so through the voices of real people who were formerly trapped in the same spider’s web.

Your companion can help keep you accountable to your personal commitment to integrity and honesty. They can go with you when you have to shop. They can shop for you when you are not feeling strong enough to resist the urge to steal. The person who knows you best can see when you are taking too much upon yourself, or trying to save the world, or expressing feelings of victimization – and they can call you on it.

There is a danger of your partner getting overzealous in watching over you, so you will have to keep communicating until you find a balance. Remember, your spouse/partner did not ask for this – so be meek, respectful, and patient.

In the lines below, try to picture how your new partnership will work. What are some of the challenges you can foresee as you think about being accountable. Are you afraid you will be badgered or over-protected? How will you prepare yourself to be patient with an over-zealous helper, and how will you keep the communication lines open? (For example, you could plan a regular meeting to talk about how you both feel about how it is going. Or, you can retain some control by requesting the right to have them back off a bit if you ask lovingly and kindly for some “space.”)

____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________

As you demonstrate your commitment to stop stealing through your openness about the problem, you can start to build back the trust that you one violated. My secret devastated my wife when I had to tell her. One of the reasons I put so much effort into overcoming my addiction was to show her that I could be a trustworthy person. I opened my life up and let her look in, and in a short time she began to trust me again. But don’t expect or demand trust on your timetable. The trust that you want from your spouse/partner is something they give. You cannot take trust from them. You can only receive it. Your actions, not your words, will earn the trust you desire.

“You cannot talk your way out of something
you behaved yourself into.”
— Steven Covey

My relationship with my wife is so much deeper and more wonderful now. It was through suffering that we were able to deepen our commitment to and love for each other. I am glad I was caught stealing. I found forgiveness and acceptance from the person who knows me best – and loves me regardless of my failures.

Join Support Groups

Caution: You should make every attempt to remain anonymous. Be sure to use your new anonymous email account that you created. You would probably be safe if people in your group knew your last name, but it is best to be cautious and provide your first name only. In our group we provide our first name and the state from which we are calling. Anything can go wrong when you are dealing with people. You can be careful without being paranoid.

Why should you join a group?

It is vital for you to be a part of a support group. The benefits are immeasurable. There is a mysterious power that comes from plugging in to a group that has a common enemy to face – and defeat.

Stop flying solo. You have been going it alone in your secret world of thrills and shame. Most people who call into our phone support group (9:00 pm EST on Thursday Evenings) are shocked to her people from all over the county expressing the same feelings the they have had to carry alone on their shoulders – until now. Now you have found people who have done what you have done. The people in your group now feel the loss and fear of what the future may hold as a result stealing. Knowing you are not alone can take you from stealing to a whole new level. You will find stregth to overcome both the thrill and guilt of shoplifting. I personally believe that you can make giant strides that are meaningful lasting when you are connected to a group. Groups help us walk down a road less traveled by most addicts, and it can make all the difference in the journey. One woman contacted me before joining a group and said, “The isolation and shame are like a slow suicide.” It’s time to stop dying. It’s time to start living.

How have you tried to “go it alone”? Do you have a natural tendency to avoid asking for help? Has it been good or bad to try and handle this problem on your own? Why do you think you don’t want to ask others to help you stop stealing?

____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________

The group helps prevent you from overwhelming your family/friends support group. Sometimes those close to us just want to have a normal conversations that do not include the topic of stealing. Sharing your current issues can give your loved ones a breather. It will also show the people you love that you are getting help for yourself, and that you are committed to a new life of integrity.

On another note, you can sometimes tell strangers things that you may not be able to tell your close loved ones. However, you may need to get those things off your chest by telling someone – now.

Do you think that a group can help your close loved ones to be more effective in helping you. Have you experienced frustration from family and friends because life now seems to revolve around helping you to stop stealing. Do you think a group can help?
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________

You can learn to develop skills that will help you deal with underling emotional and psychological issues. We learn from other group members how to face life’s daily challenges, replacing the self-destruction behavior of shoplifting with healthy thinking and activities. In you group you will find help in dealing with difficult emotions and stresses from addiction that have weighed on your self-image and self-respect. 

“By sharing information and resources, learning how others have coped with similar problems, and witnessing the coping styles of others, members can improve their own problem-solving abilities. Groups offer members realistic feedback as they try out new coping strategies, learn to be more assertive with health care professionals and with other significant people in their lives.”
— Mayo Clinic Staff article

You can discover that you are not a bad person. You are a typical being who has not learned to deal with life’s problems and challenges. You will meet people in your group who feel good about themselves despite the fact that they have been addicted to stealing. You will find that you can accept yourself just as you are, and that is a great starting point.

Do you think you can ever feel good about yourself again? Would it help you if you could meet other people who have the same emotional and mental struggles that you are now facing? Do you feel that it would be beneficial to you if you could speak with people who were once addicted to shoplifting who now live a life of personal integrity?
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________

A group can help you stay accountable in overcoming your stealing addiction. Knowing that I was going to have to get on a support group call every week and report how I was doing was a strong motivating force for me in my early days of staying safe (not stealing).

“Psychologically, if you feel like you have a responsibility 
and commitment toward another person, you are
more likely to follow through on that commitment.”
–Wayne Andersen, MD

You will find that moving from independence to interdependence is a healthy step in overcoming your addiction. You will want to give a good report to the group, and you will gain a desire to set a good example for others in the group.

“Survival of the fittest” is not how a nation rises to greatness and civility. It is by grouping together with common values and ideals that enables us to defend ourselves against the cruelty that the power-hungry bullies of the world would otherwise inflict upon us. You don’t have to be strong to walk down most street in the U.S.A. unafraid. It is our group commitment recorded in the Constitution that enables us to have a strength that we could not have alone.

Addiction is the chaotic bully that is more easily defeated with the common commitment of your support group. I am not saying that it impossible to kick an addiction on your own. It is simply easier to accomplish your goal to stop stealing if you have a group to stand with. You will also be a help to a support group just by showing up, and especially when you start living honestly. When you tell the group that you have not stolen in 10 days, that will encourage the new attendees, and it will also encourage the regulars because they have helped you get to your 10th day of personal integrity.

How do you think a group would help you to stay accountable? How do you think it would help you during the week if you knew you were going to have to report any stealing to the people on the group who care and are trying to help you? Have you found help and support through other groups? (For example, sports teams or veteran’s groups, etc.)

____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________

A support group can help you feel accepted and provide a place where you can let your guard down.  I will admit that it is a challenge that no one in the group looks forward too if you have stolen during the week and you know you have to tell the group. It’s not that you will be rejected by the group. It is that we naturally want to have people see us as successful. But eventually we all confess to the group and unburden our hearts of the secret we have been keeping. The group does not judge us with harsh words of rebuke. The group opens its heart and lovingly directs you back onto the path. “You are perfectly imperfect as a human.”

A support group is a safe place of openness and acceptance. Perfection is not required. In fact, perfection disqualifies you form attendance. Surely a place of acceptance and complete emotional safety will help you in your search for a new theft-free life. “If you want to go far, go together.” (Africa Proverb.)

It is inevitable that you will help others when you help yourself. When you are part of a support group, your participation will help others. I will talk more about service to others in another section of this workbook. For now, however, just know that other people in the group may be able to stop stealing as a direct result of you sharing your failures, struggles and successes.

I would like to encourage you deliberately help others in the group in order to help you stop stealing. The Dalai Lama calls this “selfish Altruism.” Of course true desire should be to help others, but there is no crime in knowing that your service to others directly helps you to stop shoplifting .

“In seeking happiness for others,
You will find it for yourself”
–Anonymous

Set some goals for helping others beat their addition and list them below. (For example, one goal could be to go for 3 days without stealing, 0r 10 days, etc. Sharing your goal, and then your success, will encourage others to do the same. Or, a kind word might help make someone’s day. Another idea is to remember what was said in a previous meeting and asking about it, thus showing you cared enough to listen.) ____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________

When you join a group you will meet people who show you that a theft-free life is possible, no matter how bad your addiction has become. I hear this frequently on my phone group. People call in and find that others have been able to overcome a life-long addiction to shoplifting and theft. The knowledge that other people just like you are now living a fulfilling life without stealing brings hope, and inspiration. We also tend to listen closely to the stories of those in the group who found a way to beat the compulsion to steal. They are like living sign posts pointing the way to a life of integrity and sanity.

One of the keys to change is to “form a new, emotional relationship with a person or community that inspires and sustains hope.” This “new relationship helps you learn, practice, and master the new habits and skills that you’ll need.” Soon “the new relationship helps you learn new ways of thinking about your situation and your life. Ultimately, you look at the world in a way that would have been so foreign to you that it wouldn’t have made any sense before you changed.” (Alan Deutschman: “Change or Die”)

 

“New hope, new skills, and new thinking.”
–Alan Deutschman

In a group you can find a friend who is willing to help keep you accountable in staying theft-free. In 12-Step Groups this person is called a “sponsor.” You don’t have to call someone a “sponsor,” as that may imply a big commitment. Some groups don’t have a formal title for those who are willing to help newcomers, but there are usually a few people in every group that are willing to be just an email, text, or phone call away. Just find someone you can check in with on a regular basis. Keep seeking until you find the people you need to help you. Expect that finding your helpers may take some time. It is very easy to fall into the trap of feeling like a victim because people are not falling over themselves to help you. Keep searching and asking until you find the people that can give you a hand up.

It is a great idea to do a practice call to the person who is willing to help you stay safe. Many find it hard to call someone for help when they are tempted to steal. So make a practice call or text the day after you exchange contact information with you “sponsor” (helper). It’s like a “Test of the American Broadcast System,” and it breaks the ice of the first time call.

You will need balance in your relationships. On the one hand you will want to be very considerate of your helper’s time. You are probably not the only person they are helping, and we live in a busy world. On the other hand you need to see your personal need as being important enough to ask someone to go out of their way to help you. Some people with addictive personalities monopolize the time of those offering help, while others suffer in silence because they feel too undeserving to receive help.

Take some time now to write about the obstacles in your mind that might be a barrier to recruiting sponsors and helpers. Perhaps you don’t want to bother people. Maybe you are afraid that no one will want to help you. Do you tend to feel that you are a victim, always getting the short end of the stick in life? How many times will you ask for help before you stop trying? (Hint: you can’t stop trying.)

____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________

Remember in our first lesson in this workbook we learned that a primary ingredient of overcoming an addiction is work. There is hope for you, and hope is carried on the back of your desire to grow. Desire, with much practice creates a new way of thinking. The group can help get you to the place you want to be, with a new mindset. Your support group can help lead you to a life of integrity and honesty.

Have there been times in your life when you were a part of a group that inspired you to do more than you would have done on your own? Was there a mentor or someone you respected that made you want to try harder and accomplish more in life? How do you think a group can help you get to your goal of a theft-free life?

____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________

Groups inspire you to heal yourself, and not become reliant on support or therapy. Your mission is to find the tools you need that will enable you to live a shoplifting-free life apart from the group. It is nice to have a support group that you can rely on for a time. Inspiration is a powerful glowing light that naturally emanates from a healthy group. There should be individuals in your support group who challenge you to be strong and stand firm in your integrity. Their success will call upon you to rise to a level of honesty you once thought impossible. It is healthy to continue attending a support group even after you have been theft-free for months. New group attendees will need you to set an example. However, the purpose of a support group is to help you to stand on your own, when there is no one watching. You should be growing with an inner strength that will sustain you even if the group were no longer available. In other words, the goal of a support group is not to make you dependent on support, but to provide enough support to enable you to stand on your own.

If you break your leg, you will need crutches to support your weight. Your bone needs time to repair itself before it can hold up your weight. Your muscles will grow week while your bone heals. When the bone heals the weakened muscles must then be worked to regain strength for limping, walking, and then running. We use crutches to help us heal, and we use them less and less as our strength increases over time. A bad break can take much longer to heal, but the goal remains the same. Using crutches longer than necessary can actually delay your healing because the newly mended bone does not learn to carry your full weight. Your goal is to stand alone without assistance. Look for a group that helps you to stand on your own.

Write down the names of some people or groups that have inspired you to reach a goal, or to be better than you one thought you could be. Write about why you were inspired, and how it helped you to be a better person on your own. What is your goal in overcoming your addiction? What will you look for in the people within your support group? What should you avoid that may be detrimental to your progress?

____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________

The group will give you Synergy. In Stephen Covey’s book, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” is “synergy” means that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. “1+1 = 3” In other words, a support group can provide you with greater and more effective solutions than we could provide for ourselves. Covey says that the essence of synergy is to “value and respect differences, to build on strengths and to compensate for weaknesses.” You will accomplish much more as a group than any of the group members could do on their own.

“A synergy is where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. In other words, when two or more people or organizations combine their efforts, they can accomplish more together than they can” Try to think of a time where you were able to accomplish more as a group than as individually.
(Example: A baseball team can accomplish more as a team because players need to be in multiple places at the same time. The pitcher cannot catch. Not only may he not have the tallent, but it is physically impossible for all but “The Flash” to catch the pitch that he himself has pitched.

____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________

How to Conduct Yourself In a Group

Once you find you group connections it is important to know how to conduct yourself in the group setting. The following tips will help you get a good start.

Be sure to familiarize yourself with all of those guidelines before attending a group. Every group will typically have its own guidelines. You want to be very respectful in this area. When you enter a group, you are allowed into a “safe place.” People are at the support group because they feel secure within the rules that have been established. Your goal is to avoid disrupting the safety and security of the group while you seek your own. If you are attending a group and you did not have access to the guidelines, ask what they are before you share. Ask also for a copy of the guidelines to take home with you.

Be considerate and don’t dominate the meeting. It is very healthy for you to share your feeling and experiences with the group. However, others need to share and receive support from your group. It is easy to get lost in your own need to share, and you can easily take more than your share of the limited time allotted. There is a balance that you will need to find between watching the time, yet taking the time you are given to share how you are doing in your struggle to stay safe. Be aware of the time, but take your time.

Be sensitive to the needs of the group. You don’t have to take your whole allotted share time if there are new attendees. Several people on our call will keep their comments short, reporting that they are safe and a couple of things the put into practice for the week to help themselves stay safe. That can be done in a minute or less. Again, find balance. Don’t neglect yourself and become a martyr, never taking the time that you need to share. Know what you need, but understand the need of other attendees.

Be thankful and don’t be critical of the people who are leading your group. They are almost always working without pay to provide you with free support. Stay positive and don’t cut people down behind their backs. To attack someone in your group is a form of self-destructive behavior, as this is one of your lifelines. Many of us who have addictions also have a default tenancy to look for and find fault with everyone around us. Make a commitment to monitor your speech and thoughts. If you find yourself being critical, or tearing people down in your mind, stop yourself. Be thankful. Your purpose for attending is not to fix the group.

Keep in mind that all support groups are made of regular people like you. They are imperfect as humans. On the other hand, the typical addict feels entitled to receive great service, even if it is being provided free. I had one lady upset with me because I forgot to call her name twice from my list to share. On the next call the lady informed me that forgetting her twice was unacceptable and that I should not have done that. I felt very bad. On another occasion a gentleman thought that I should have answered his email faster than I was able to do at that busy time of my life. He bashed me and bashed via email and made me feel awful. People who attempt to provide support are people just like you, with a common problem. They are just trying to provide free help.

Are you a critical person by nature? Do you tend to find the fault in others, or see quickly how to correct the way others are doing things? (Note that I am that way, and work to overcome it.) Write out your plan to stay positive, and always be constructive.

____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________

Keep religion out of your meetings, and learn what it really means to be tolerant. We want people to be tolerant of us, but many have trouble being tolerant of others. Few people who have strong faith want to hear an opposing world-view. Maybe people don’t want to hear an alternate viewpoint because it implies that their belief is wrong. For example, many Christians who believe that the Bible has no error find it offensive to hear that someone else is trusting in the power of the support group to help them. On the other hand, agnostics and atheists may find it offensive to hear a Christian testify that there is no help for shoplifters without God. Odds are that one of the above examples sounded right, and one sounded totally wrong. Yet, I have met people on both sides of the ideological fence who have stopped shoplifting.

A lack of tolerance can be a roadblock to overcoming your addiction to shoplifting. This problem is illustrated James’s story:

“I wanted to help people stop shoplifting, so I attempted to start a local support group for shoplifters. The first lady who contacted me for support wanted to meet in a coffee shop, excited that she finally found help for her stealing addiction. She asked me what I believed about God. I made the mistake of mentioning that I did not know if God was real, and that I had overcome my addiction without praying to a God. I told her that I lived life with direction from my inner voice and the wisdom of my support groups. I explained that I had tried to believe in God, but I was never sure that God was either listening or helping. The lady looked horrified and began to explain to me that an addiction could not be overcome without God’s help. I tried to passively point out that I was no longer shoplifting without Gods help, while she continued to shoplift as she prayed to God for help to stop. I tried to tell her that she and I could live life without shoplifting, and help each other to stay safe even though we had differing belief systems. I tried to suggest that maybe God brought me to her in answer to her prayer. She was not convinced and never contacted me again.” — James

Would you rather be right, or theft-free? On our call there have been religious and political squabbles that have caused bitter feelings over which some left the group. It is not worth it to possible go to jail and lose everything because you wanted to be right so much that you were unable to tolerate the one group that could help you stop stealing.

I personally used to think that I was right in my belief system. I later discovered that I really don’t know all of the mysteries in life. It is arrogant to think that I am write in my beliefs and that anyone who has an opposing view is wrong. It would be egotistical of me to think that my understanding of God is the right understanding. It is also self-centered for me to think that my belief that there is no God is correct. I now believe that there is much more that I don’t know when compared to what I do know. In fact, the list of things I don’t know increases with my age and study.

It is possible to be spiritual without being religious. It is possible to stay true to yourself and what you believe without imposing your beliefs upon others.

What kind of things will be hard for you to hear without lashing back? Does it bother you that people believe in God, or Ala, or Buddha? Does it bother you when people don’t believe in any God. Does it bother you if a person simply follows the direction of their own conscience? What do you think it means to be tolerant, verses being a “doormat” with no boundaries? Why do you think most of us think our belief system is the write one? Do you think you might have a different belief system if you were born in a different country? Can you allow people to find their own way spiritually and just focus on overcoming addiction together?

____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________

Don’t share methods of stealing. It is important to avoid providing ideas for stealing that some in your group had never thought of before. Our battle is in the mind, and we have enough to think about without adding to the mix some new and exciting ways of stealing. When you share about times you were tempted, skip the details of exactly what you were tempted to do. For example, I worded out a way to get “free” coffee from a local coffee shop. When I shared this temptation I did not explain how I could have “gotten away with it.” I simply shared that I struggled because I did not prepare myself to be honest and a man of integrity as I went in to buy my coffee.

One of the reasons you may be tempted to share your methods of stealing might be because you believe shoplifting is one of the only things in life that you were good at. I believed I was a talented thief and I want to share (brag) about my cleaver exploits. I could never tell anyone until I started attending the phone group where it was acceptable to talk about my stealing addiction. If you find that you are both ashamed and proud of your shoplifting addiction, then this paragraph is for you. There is no lasting peace in helping others to give into their addiction simply because you what then to see you as a talented thief. Be a humble servant instead and you will be an asset and not a liability your self and to the group.

Why do you think you have a desire to share what a talented shoplifter/thief you were? That desire needs to be snuffed out before you start sharing with the rest of the group. What will you do to prepare yourself for limiting your share to wholesome words suitable for the whole group? Your words can change the life of a person who would otherwise remain stuck in servitude to a shoplifting addiction. Will you help, or will you hinder?
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________

Always bring a paper and pen to your group to take notes for recording thoughts and new ways of thinking and new practices to help keep you safe. You can write down helpful thoughts, quotes, book titles, web sites, and methods of staying safe. Remember that you are not in the support group to be entertained, or to passively address a small personal problem. You are fighting for your life, and that requires diligence and commitment.

Listen as if you were going to teach someone else how to stop stealing. Attend every support group meeting as if you were going to develop a class on how to stop shoplifting. Listen, write, question and process everything that you hear in your group.

If your goal is to get the least amount of benefit from you time with the group, just attend and listen. This method of learning is proven to be the least effective in learning. Just listening will enable you to retain the least amount of information in your long term memory. Some say that they do better just listening, but that idea is the unscientific mantra of a lazy mind. Go all the way: listen, write, think, question, and then share. The wisdom you have learned will help the rest of the group.

Plan on serving in your group once you have a few safe months under your belt. It is vital for you to help others in order to help yourself to stop shoplifting and find contentment in your heart. You will find purpose and an inspiring satisfaction when you see that your life touches others in a positive way. I know it seems counter to the natural law of the world, but we actually get more than we give when we reach out and offer a hand of help.

“Help others achieve their dreams
and you will achieve yours.”
–Les Brown
“It is in giving that we receive.”
–St. Francis of Assisi

Commit now to help in your support group. How could you help? When will you start?

____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________

 

Types of Groups

Now let’s look at the types of groups available to you.

Phone Groups:
Phone groups are a good way to get started. You don’t have to worry about a face-to-face encounter which can be very intimidating. The shame we feel from stealing and secret keeping can keep us from exposing ourselves to a group setting. You may be saying to yourself, “What will they think of me if I confess?” With a phone group, however, you have all of the power. You can participate at any level that you choose, from just listening to sharing your whole story. You can hang up if you get scared, or you can choose to just listen for a while. Usually first-time callers relax once they hear other people share.

It is hard for us to believe that there are people all over just like us who carry this secret shame, and most feel an immediate bond with the group after listing in on one call. Most say after listening for a while, “I can’t believe there are people who understand what I am going through.” You group will be full of people who have experienced the same problems and feeling that you have.

One draw-back to a phone group is that there are sometime technological glitches. Sometimes you cannot hear perfectly, and background noise can be annoying. Most group callers find that the technical glitches don’t take long to get used to. I know for me it was extremely hard to stay on the phone the first time. It just felt strange and messy to try and listen, and then talk. I have now been on the call for over two years and I don’t have any issues with it. Most calls are clear and organized, and typically everything runs smoothly with minimal distractions.

Do you think it would be nice to be able to safely share your secret with people who will certainly understand your fears and shame? Do you think that a phone group would be a good way to get your feet wet in a support group. What would be a benefit to joining a phone group? What do you see as a negative to joining a phone group?

____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________

Click Here for a list of phone support groups.

In-Person Group:
Going to a live group and interacting with people has no real substitute. While phone groups are effective and a very good tool for those who have no in-person group near them to attend, we were meant to interact with each other – face to face. You can feel and see the help, and that can be profoundly more effective than the phone alone. You don’t have to have an in-person support group in order to be successful. Many on my phone group, including me, did not have an in-person support group to attend. But if there is a shoplifting recovery support group near you, visit it as soon as possible. I believe you will be glad you did so.

People can get lonely in this age of technology, with literally thousands of virtual friends, and no close friends. It can be like being in a crowd, yet being alone. So take any opportunity you have to attend a group where there is the warmth of human contact, and the potential to shake a hand instead of a mouse for a change.

How do you feel about seeing people face to face when everyone has the same addiction to stealing? Is there fear? Do you feel a mental barrier to being a part of a group like this? Why do you think you have those feelings?

____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________

Click Here for a list of in-person C.A.S.A. support groups.

Non-C.A.S.A. Support Groups:

If there are no support groups for those addicted to stealing, just about any other addiction support group will help you. The principles for overcoming any addiction are basically the same, and the human contact in very beneficial to you. Depression support groups, Alcoholics Anonymous, Al-Anon, Codependents Anonymous, and Narcotics Anonymous are just a few of the groups that you might try. Do an internet search for any of the groups listed above and attend one that feels right to you.

You don’t have to tell people why you are at their group if you don’t want to. You can simply say that you have an addiction and you are their for support. Any healthy group will accept you with open arms and allow you to share when and what you want to in your own time.

Take the time now to see what groups are available in your area if you do not have a local C.A.S.A. in-person group near you. Google some of the support group names above. Write out the contact info below.

____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________

It is a good idea to try several groups, both by phone and in person. Each group has a different personality and method for providing support. It is OK to be a part of several groups at the same time and settle into the group that you feel will provide the most support for your particular needs and preferences.

If you are not a part of a group already, it is time to make some decisions. Support groups are a vital part of your success in overcoming your addiction to shoplifting. After going over the information on support groups, make out an overall support group plan below. Do not skip this “rubber meets the road” step. You must progress past theory to daily practice. Make a plan and stick to it.

____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________

 

Conclusion:

 

A network of support is a vital and essential part of your journey to a shoplifting-free life. It is your responsibility to develop the network that will help stay “safe.”  Your support network should include some or all of the following people:

 

A professional therapist or counselor to help guide to appropriate treatment.

A spouse/partner/close friend to share your secrets with.

A support group that will, well, support you.

A sponsor or group member who will help to keep you accountable.

 

Take some time to write out some of your thoughts about developing a network of support. Talk about what you think will hinder you from stepping out and finding people who will help you. Think through all of the fears that may be flooding your brain as you think about telling another human being that you steal things, and that you really need help. Think through how you will overcome your the fears that are paralyzing you.

____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________
____________________________________________________________________