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Welcome to this new section on the Help For Shoplifters site. I will be adding helpful and healthy practices and habits that have been proven to contribute to the success of many people who were formerly addicted to theft. Keep in mind that this list is made up of ideas for you to develop.
Remember that these tools are personal, and everyone has to build their own toolkit for success in overcoming a theft addiction. Start working through these ideas to see what fits you best, and what helps you personally. Every idea has been summarized. Take time to understand the bigger idea behind each tool. There are no new ideas in this toolkit for shoplifters, but I have put them in this one place to help others help themselves. Every person with a shoplifting addiction should have a tools kit. It should start small and be developed over many years.
NOTE: I am starting with just a few tools and will add to this list as time permits.
Let’s get started.
Shopping tools start with a100% commitment to recovery that includes Zero Tolerance for stealing and all “grey” area. Without a fully commitment up from you will be unable to stand when the strong winds whip the sand into your face and begin to wear down your will to be safe. If you are violating your conscience by downloading movies and music that you did not purchase, you have lost your integrity and you are setting yourself up for a fall. Commit to do nothing that would violate your personal code of integrity. Are you ready to make that commitment? Straddling the fence will get you splinters in bad places.
Desire is the key to motivation, but it’s determination and commitment
to an unrelenting pursuit of your goal – a commitment to excellence –
that will enable you to attain the success you seek.”
– Mario Andretti
Stay out of shops if possible. Terry Shulman calls this unloading the gun. I personally did not stay out of stores, but most people who are successful in overcoming their stealing addiction stopped or limited their time shopping. You can’t shoplift if the shop is nowhere near you. Ask a trusted friend to shop for you, or use a delivery service.
If you do shop, shop with a list. Make a short list of all the things you need to purchase, and get only those things, and leave. Do not browse for any reason. It helps if you know the layout of the store and you make your list in the order of the store so there is little to no backtracking and extra time spent in the danger zone.
When you prepare to go shopping, don’t ware baggy cloths or a jacket. Take in only a hand wallet/purse and a check card or cash. You should not take in bags, big purses, baggy shirts/pants, baby strollers, or any other tool used to conceal merchandise. One person in our C.A.S.A. group we so far as to sow up her pockets so she could not use them for theft any longer.
Stay away from the shops that you have scoped out for security weaknesses, and from the shops that were your “favorite targets.” Your brain can trick you into believing that you need to go to that shop to get that “special item,” and that you are strong enough to beat the temptation. Don’t you believe that for a minute! Stay away!
When possible, shop on the internet. It is hard to get stuff in your pockets through high-speed cable. Caution: If you have a problem of overspending, shopping on the Internet may not be a good part of your personal strategy for staying out of shops.
Before you shop, You should never go shopping if you are hungry, angry, lonely or tired. The acronym “H.A.L.T.” stands for hungry, angry, lonely or tired. All people who have a stealing problem should halt and not go shopping when they are:
* Hungry: When you are hungry your body and mind feels a craving that wants to be satisfied. That is why most dieticians tell you to not shop when you are hungry as you will select the wrong food, and even buy more food than you need. Being full when you go shopping will assist you in sticking to your commitment to stay safe and shoplifting-free.
* Angry: When you are angry you will typically make decisions from the wrong part of your brain. That is why the state of being angry is often called “mad.” To be “mad” is to be crazy and incapable of seeing things clearly, and incapable of making logical decisions.
* Lonely: When you are lonely you naturally look for ways to fill the void you feel inside. Stealing is a false attempt to fill the void of loneliness. We all experience loneliness, but some people like me feel chronically lonely. Over the last few months I have been learning to find peace in loneliness. Or as Patrick Carnes puts it in “A Gentle Path through the Twelve Steps,” I am converting my loneliness into solitude. I am using the times I am alone
* Tired: Stress and worry can wear you out and weaken your resolve to stay safe. If you are tired, resolve to stay out of shops until you have a chance to regroup and rest. You will feel better – in every way.
The important thing about shopping when you are trying to overcome a shoplifting addiction is to plan every detail of your shopping trips. You cannot over-plan.
“If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.”
– Benjamin Franklin
Carry a photo of the ones you love and will deeply hurt when you are caught stealing. A photo of your spouse/partner, children, dog, cat, grandma, etc. will enhance your shoplifting prevention toolkit. Get out the photo before you get out of the car in the parking lot and hold it in your hand until you get back in the car.
SUPPORT NETWORK TOOLS
It is your responsibility to develop a network of support. There are many things that make this task difficult, but it is always possible.
Seek counseling from Terry Shulman at theshulmancenter.com, or find a local therapist or counselor familiar with theft addiction. I personally believe that Terry’s counseling is the best value as it is specialized counseling. Do at least one session with Terry before you decide to look elsewhere.
Find a local group, even if it is not a theft addiction group (e.g. Codependents Anonymous or any other support group). Develop relationships there. Find someone who is willing to help keep you accountable. You don’t have to call someone a “sponsor,” as that may imply a big commitment. Just find someone you can check in with on a regular basis. Keep seeking until you find the people you need to help you.
Another idea is to enlisted the support of our spouse/partner and encouraged them to read “Something for Nothing” This will give them a better understanding of compulsive shoplifting. This has been a primary tool in my toolkit for overcoming addiction to stealing.
Call into one of the phone groups listed at http://helpforshoplifters.com/support-groups. You can call in as many times during the week as the calls are offered. I recommend trying them all, as each group will have a difference method and personality makeup. Next, make a personal commitment to the phone group that fits your personality be and become an active participant. Your toolkit will be incomplete without being an active member of a support group.
When you feel safe to do so, tell someone you trust about your struggle a shoplifting addiction. Ask them to help you stay accountable. (Be careful who you tell, as it can hurt you to tell the wrong person. Even your spouse or a family member can be the wrong person to tell.)
“If you want to go fast, go alone.
If you want to go far, go together.”
– African Proverb
BOOK, WORKBOOK AND AUDIO BOOK TOOLS
The right books are like personal counselors helping you to examine yourself and challenging you to grow and change. Workbooks engage your mind more than reading alone can ever do. I personally love audio books, and I am always listening as I drive by myself. Go to http://helpforshoplifters.com/resources/books for a list of books I have found helpful.
NOTE: If you want to change, you will find a way to buy some books. Believe me when I say that books are cheaper than lawyers, court costs, and the toll on your family. Also, try the public library. Most people fail to overcome their addiction to stealing because they don’t want pay the price that success required. Do the work, and pay the price.
“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
Meditation can your brain get out of what Buddhists call “Monkey Mind.” Our thoughts jump from one side of the cage to the next, never resting, always afraid or anxious, or angry – or all three! The following are links that will help you START on you meditation journey. Remember, take it slow and keep it short to start if you want lasting success. “Don’t try it a couple of times and say “I just can’t.” It takes a while to be transformed form primeape to homosapien thinking patterns. (That was an attempt at humor.) Click on the links below to get some basic guidance on meditation practice:
Click Here for Guided Meditation by Eckhart Tolle.
Click Here for Meditation for quieting the mind.
Click here for a beginner’s meditation practice: This practice is based on four repetitions (chants): 1. May I be safe, 2. May be content (happy), 3. May I be healthy (as can be), 4. May I live with easy.
Click here for a video of another form of meditation from Dr. Andrew Weil’s book, Spontaneous Happiness, is called 8-7-4 breathing exercise. The following is a description of it:
“Conscious breathing takes various forms. Dr. Weil believes each variety can be a useful tool for achieving a desired mental or physical state. As the Zen Buddhist monk Thích Nhất Hạnh puts it, “Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky. Conscious breathing is my anchor.”
The 4-7-8 Breath (also known as the Relaxing Breath) is the perfect, portable stress antidote, as it puts the practitioner in a relaxed state almost immediately. As Dr. Weil demonstrates, It takes almost no time, requires no equipment and can be done anywhere.”
Count your safe days (days without stealing). Start a journal with the main idea that you will put a mark on the page for every day you do not steal. This simple record of total safe days has been a powerful tool for many former shoplifters who overcame compulsive stealing.
Also, carry a pocket journal to record what you were thinking and feeling just before you have an urge to shoplift. Understanding your thought patterns can help you and your counselor/therapist uncover what is driving your addiction to steal. Be as vivid, detailed, and descriptive as possible because details matter. Ask yourself questions: “What makes me angry? What hurts my feelings? What makes me depressed? What makes me afraid? Etc.” Also ask the positive questions: “What makes me happy? What makes me peaceful? What makes me feel valued and needed? What makes me feel energetic? Etc.” There is a therapeutic quality to writing out your thoughts, and many there are answers to difficult situations uncovered through the pages of your journal.
NOTE: It is vital for those who continue to steal to re-read your journal entries. This practice helps to see yourself as you really are. It gives you a clear prospective on the seriousness of the shoplifting addiction. Many are shocked to read their own journals and can’t believe they have been involved in the self-destructive addiction.
Record who you were thinking about or interacting with, and how various people in your life make you feel. Again, detail is very important. For example, I was feeling unloved and unappreciated because I felt that I was taking care of everyone in my family, yet no one was taking care of me. This was one of my triggers for stealing.
Include a gratitude list in your journal. You can write 3 things you are thankful for each morning, or you can write a note about the people you are thankful for. Another for of gratitude is to write at the end of each week 3 things that went well, and why you think they west well. Gratitude has a long lasting positive impact on your level of happiness, and it is proven to decrease depression. Get started today.
It has been helpful to me to develop mantras that help to remind me of my newly adopted values of honesty and integrity. The most helpful phrase for me has been, “That’s not mine.” Whenever I see something that I want to steal, I stop and say, “That’s not mine.” This simple declaration has been helpful to others in my support circles. Try to develop your own personal mantras. “I don’t do that any more.” “I am now a person of integrity and honesty.” What can you think of that might help you personally?
Statements of self-acceptance can also be help. “I accept the different parts of myself, as I am a work in progress.” Or say, “As a human being, I am perfectly imperfect.”
Tonight one of our callers shard a method of dealing with going into shops. He uses a visualization method where he sites in the car prior to going in the shop and visualizes paying for the item before he every enters the store.
You could also speak to yourself about the positive side of staying safe when you are near a shop? You might say, “Honest is it’s Own Reward.” focus on the positive influence of the group.
Giving to other, or “paying back” the community that we have taken from, is a vital part of our recovery. Many of us who have shoplifted for years can increase our self-perception and self-esteem. Volunteer to help the elderly, or the homeless, or troubled kids. You will get more than you give. Giving back is cleansing and provides a zest for life. Start helping someone today and journal the difference you fee when someone’s life is made better because of you deliberately giving of yourself.
Another reason to give your service is to help others out of their shoplifting addiction. There were people here for you when you week in need. Soon there will be new seekers who want to stop stealing. Will you be there for them? Will you reach out to give them encouragement, shining a light of guidance? Personally, if I do not help others find their way – I once again took “something for nothing.” That is not the way I want to live my life. On the other hand, when I reach out and help others who suffer in the shame and secrecy of theft addiction, I really help my own recovery. Service to others is really a service to my own recovery.
“For it is in giving that we receive.”
– Francis of Assisi
Note: Please send comment or toolkit ideas to add to this list of tools by clicking here: Contact Form. I will be adding tool along the way. I would love to hear what is working for you.