(NOTE from the moderator of this site: This commentary on “Rigorous Honesty” was developed by a group of four members of a shoplifting support group.)
What does this mean for those in recovery from shoplifting and stealing?
As addicts, many of us have a tendency to minimize or deny the extent of our shoplifting and stealing behaviors. We may even justify certain behaviors that we do not consider illegal or where we think we will not get caught. However, if we are to fully recover from our addictive and destructive behaviors, we have to be willing to go to all extents to improve ourselves. As we know, “half measures availed us nothing.”
This document outlines some of the areas that many of us in this fellowship used to gloss over, overlook, minimize, deny or call “grey areas.” Rigorous honesty involves uncovering every detail of what we do and think as we work through the steps of our program. We must apply careful examination to the way we think about the details of our life. Many of us realized that we had to include new things to our inventory of addictive behavior patterns, holding ourselves to a higher standard of accountability – committing to live a life of rigorous honesty and spiritual wholeness.
The following is an inventory of unhealthy thoughts and actions that could contribute to a relapse into stealing. Living a life of complete integrity is our goal.
- Taking more than our fair share of things
This could be taking home extra condiments or refreshments from restaurants or eateries, refilling sodas that actually should be paid refills, taking too many samples or taking silverware. It is the idea of stocking up, getting something for free, and taking advantage of a situation.
- Taking advantage of complimentary goods or services
This may involve dishonestly procuring discounts, credits or freebies. This can be from a business, a church or service organization, an individual, the government, or other. These actions may be small, like picking up a glossy magazine in a waiting room to take home for our personal pleasure. Or, on the other hand, they may be big like getting a grant from a social service organization when we don’t need it or are not eligible. There are many examples that would come under this category.
- Stealing from work or volunteer activities.
This category can range from picking up office supplies, bathroom supplies, or other items to use at home all the way to stealing petty cash, committing fraud or embezzlement, or to stealing and reselling items of value.
- Using work/volunteer organization equipment for personal use
This is not the same as stealing from work, but includes using the company car to go on personal outings or vacations, using your work phone for private purposes, or using your work computer to start another business or shop on eBay or do anything other than work.
- Spending time at work doing non-work
This can look like a lot of different behaviors that we often justify by saying “everyone else does it.” For example, making personal calls from work, doing your personal finances at work, shopping online, surfing the web for anything other than work purposes, doing your personal email, and so forth.
- Cheating on disability
Many people take advantage of disability benefits when in fact they are capable of working to support themselves. This sort of dishonesty is pervasive; it raises the cost of social programs for everyone; it can make it difficult for people who really need the benefits to receive them.
- Cheating on taxes
This category is pretty much self-explanatory. It particularly comes up for people who get paid in cash. As recovering SHA members, we need to ask ourselves what the most honest thing to do is in every given situation, including on our tax returns.
- Dishonest behaviors around returns – “Bogus Returns”
Bogus returns run a whole gamut of dishonest behaviors including but not limited to: – – Returning items that we’ve stolen, broken, worn, or used
– Purchasing clothes or accessories that we intend to wear and return
– Buying an item and shoplifting the same item and later on returning the stolen item. This is a double hit as we have stolen AND made a bogus return.
– Buying something that has parts or pieces, taking out the parts we want and return the rest for full value return
– Returning items with which we have received a gift with purchase and keeping the gift
– Falsifying coupons
– Returning partly used items or partly consumed items as in the case of food
- Switching price tags
This can be done in the process of returning things but can also happen in stores where we take advantage of sale prices or lower priced items, switching tags to pay less on a non-sale or higher priced item. This activity includes using the wrong code number when buying bulk foods or fresh produce.
- Ordering items and claiming they never arrived
Even though UPS or FedEx or USPO have tracking devices, some of us have ordered items and received them but claim they never arrived to get a refund for our purchase.
- Dishonest behaviors at the movies
This can involve staying to watch a second movie when we only paid for one movie or taking snacks and drinks into movies where there are signs that state: “No outside Food or Drink.”
- Keeping extra change if given an overage
Getting extra change back when paying cash is quite frequent. In our old behaviors, we would’ve viewed this as a little windfall, a mistake that we benefited from. In recovery, we will set things right as soon as we are aware of the error.
- Lying for personal gain and/or aggrandizement
The example #10 is a reflection of this kind of behavior. In recovery, we need to be particularly aware of how we manipulate the truth or other people to our own advantage. This can show up when dealing with people who are disabled or handicapped or very elderly; when we take advantage of or lie to anyone, we are violating another’s trust.
- Cruising stores or spending excessive time in stores
If we are a recovering alcoholic, would we spend excessive time sitting at the bar in a restaurant? Checking out the wine selection in a store just to see what they have? Same logic applies to being a shoplifter hanging out in any establishment that has things for sale that we can steal.
- Taking packages/plants/outside decorations from porches or yards that are not yours You see a neighbor has several packages on their porch and you help yourself. You take plants or lawn ornaments from porches or yards.
- Insurance fraud or supplemental assistance
This can include letting the contractor absorb your deductible so you do not have to pay it or claiming damages from a past accident of damage with a current claim. Same logic would apply to medical issues. On supplemental assistance, no receiving heat assistance or medical care or food help with incorrect reporting.
- Stealing or “borrowing” without returning or letting a “loan” go without repayment from friends and relatives
Hopefully, this is self-explanatory. Basically, any behavior from the above list that involves people known to you.
- Stealing from tip jars, tip money left on tables, church collection plates
- Picking up lost wallets, purses and not turning them over immediately to authorities
This could also involve taking money or other valuables out of these items and then turning them in.
Some final comments
There are many others dishonest behaviors. We must ask our Higher Power to show us where we are still dishonest in our lives and ask for help. As more dishonest behaviors are revealed to us, we come out of denial and become accountable for our behavior, making amends as needed. As we turn over our lives to the will and care of God as we know God, we gain the strength required to be honest with ourselves and others. We become able to overcome feelings of guilt and shame about our behaviors. And, one day at a time, we learn to live a clean life, free of lies and deceit. A whole new sense of honesty unfolds within us, where we learn to put the greater good ahead of personal gain and where we respect ourselves, others, and Higher Power in equal measure.
“Keep the shadow up here [in front of you], ’cause it can only take you down from behind. “ — Robert Hilliker via Brené Brown