Introduction

Free Shoplifting Addiction Workbook.

Introduction

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.

The purpose of this material is to provide a beginning resource for your recovery from an addiction to stealing. This is a self-guided workbook. It is your responsibility to uncover the reasons why you steal and how to stop. These pages are designed to help shine a light on the path to an honest life of integrity. You as a traveler must choose to open your eyes, focus on the path and take the first step on the exciting journey back to sanity and safety.

Feel free to print off these lessons. There will be lines for you to write in your responses. Alternatively, you can read the text on this site and write your responses in a notebook. Be sure to write your responses. Don’t take shortcuts in your recovery. That’s what got you here to begin with.

I want to provide free material with one sustained motive: to help people stop stealing and reduce the negative impact of stealing on our communities. I am committed to repaying my debt to society through helping others find a path to stop stealing, and start living. This workbook is not complete, and I will put out segments as I complete them. Remember, however, I am not a counselor or therapist. I, therefore, strongly urge you to do the following:

  1. 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. Click on the link above and schedule your consultation/evaluation. You can begin on your road to a new and healthy lifestyle that does not include shoplifting.
  2. Purchase Terrance Shulman’s book, “Something for Nothing.” This book is an invaluable first step to understanding the issue of shoplifting, both for the shoplifter and the community.  You will “live the story” with Terry and begin to understand the mind of a shoplifter.  You will gain valuable insights and action steps for overcoming the self-destructive addiction to shoplifting.

I personally credit “Something for Nothing” with opening my eyes to see that my stealing problem was an addiction and not just a flaw in my moral character. I learned that stealing was an unhealthy way of dealing with unresolved issues in my life. I was able to gain an understanding of where to start searching inside myself for a healthy and balanced way of life, free from the self-destructive compulsion to steal. This book is a “must have” for everyone who desires to overcome a compulsive shoplifting addiction.

NOTE: I do not profit financially from referring people to Terry Shulman’s services or books, or from any of my support efforts.

Who is this workbook for?

Shoplifting is America’s #1 property crime according to PriceGun.com. The National Association of Shoplifting Prevention (NASP)  estimates that approximately 1 out of every 11 Americans are shoplifters, and that “more than 10 million people have been caught shoplifting in the last five years” (2010-2015).  It has been estimated that there are 550,000 incidents of shoplifting every day and that the value of the items stolen is $30,000,000 per day. The problem is a vast blight on society.

There are many reasons why people shoplift. Generally speaking, people steal due to greed, economic need, to fund an addiction (such as gambling, drugs, etc.), peer pressure, to get a thrill, or because of an addictive compulsion.  Those who shoplift due to an addiction are attempting to feel better about unresolved personal issues not directly related to theft (e.g. depression, anger, feeling life is unfair, etc.), and they represent approximately 46% of those involved in shoplifting. (Terrance Shulman, “Something for Nothing”). This workbook is designed to help the last group, the 46% who steal compulsively. This workbook is for you if you are shoplifting and you want to stop, but you just can’t seem to figure out how to stop.

What does it mean to have a shoplifting addiction?

Before we get started in the workbook, I would like to define my understanding of what it means to be addicted to shoplifting.

NOTE: I use the term “shoplifting” synonymously with “stealing” and “theft.” You might be compulsively stealing from work or skimming money from the books. This material applies to you if you are stealing. I am primarily speaking to those who shoplift, as it is the most prevalent form of theft.

Why are you reading this workbook? It is likely that you have been shoplifting (stealing), but you have not been able to stop yourself. Why do you think that is? Are you just greedy, dishonest and/or lazy? It is probable that the answer to that question is – NO! Most shoplifters are generally honest people and responsible members of the community – but they have one big dark secret.

My Story of Shoplifting Addiction:

I started stealing about 5 years before I was caught. I had no financial hardship, but I had lots of unresolved personal issues. I knew it was wrong to steal, but I was able to rationalize my stealing by telling myself, “The big stores will never miss the money,” or, “They gave me bad service so this is what they get,” or, “They charge too much for this product and I should not have to pay that price.” Of course to rationalize my shoplifting was to tell myself “rational lies.” (Stephen Covey’s wordplay.)

I started off stealing small items, but soon I moved up to larger and more expensive items. Eventually, I was trying to fill up whole shopping carts and wheel them right out of the store. In a sense, I felt invisible because I don’t look like the typical thief. I was actually abusing my “respectable and upstanding” appearance to take advantage of every store staff member was “too stupid” to ever catch me. My theft began to take up all of my spare time and even began to cut into my work schedule. I was stealing things that I wanted and items for gifts. I even started taking things I did not need, want or use. I would think about stealing whenever I was not stealing, and I felt a rush and sense of satisfaction for “getting away with” all of this free stuff. I believe I had inner conflict over the immorality of my actions, but I stuffed those feeling down and celebrated my “victories” over the shops.

Fortunately, in 2005 I was finally caught, but even in jail (one night), I thought that I would be getting off with a wrist slap. How shocked I was to discover that the store had video of me from previous “visits” and the City Prosecutor was charging me with two felonies and a misdemeanor. I spent the next four years trying to get my record sealed before my business clients and the State Licensing Board started requiring background checks.

Unfortunately, I started stealing again in 2007. Yes, if you do the math, you will know that I was stealing while trying to get my record sealed at the same time. In my mind, I was now a smarter thief. “I was only caught the first time,” I told myself, “because I got sloppy.” I am ashamed to admit now that my goal was to take something from every store I entered, and I was “successful” almost every time.

The perplexing side of my addiction was my inability to accurately assess the risk, and my blindness to the fact that I had a major self-destructive addiction. This was in spite of the fact that I was going through turmoil inside, fearing that I would lose my clients and my professional license over my first arrest. Also, I was unable to see that I was a walking conundrum of contradiction. I wanted to be a good person, I was giving to others, and I had a high level of empathy for everyone in my life. On the other hand, I was doing bad things, stealing from others, and I felt no empathy for my victims. I don’t know how else to explain it except to say that shoplifting was a big dark secret I was keeping from myself.

Fortunately, in 2013 I was caught again stealing a Magic Marker from Walmart. I won’t go into all the details of how I was caught. Let’s just say I was not as smart as I thought I was, and I did not factor into the equation “unfortunate coincidence.” The officer who detained me caught me in the parking lot, looked at me in my Cadillac, and said, “Really? REALLY?” He put the cuffs on me and sat me in the back of his car where I sat looking through a cage divider. Suddenly everything began to clear up in my mind. Now I could see that I had a real problem. I would have scratched my head in wonder at how I could be so stupid, but I had handcuffs on so I was forced to scratch metaphorically. This arrest took place a couple of months after my record was sealed from my first conviction. Now the turmoil, fear, shame, and regret could start all over again.

To make a long recovery story shorter, I will hit the highlights of what happened next. I was arrested and faced court again. My wife considered leaving me because of my self-destructive secretive shoplifting, and my new charges threatened my business and our house. The guilt, shame, regret and self-loathing was back.

I decided I would get serious about addressing my shoplifting problem. I started studying, digging through every book, audiobook, and workbook I could find. I took online shoplifting courses and went to two therapists. I discovered that I had a problem that was deeper than mere greed. I learned that I had a self-destructive addiction to stealing that was caused by underlying issues that I felt helpless to resolve directly. I was seeking to relieve my feelings of helplessness in other areas of my life through my addiction to shoplifting. I was able to methodically work through all of my underlying issues. I did not resolve them all, but I am now working to resolve them directly rather than seeking relief through shoplifting. I have been feeding my recovery and starving my addiction ever since the day I decided to change my life.

That is my story. Now, listen to shoplifters describe some of the symptoms and results of shoplifting and see if you can relate to them:

“I spend so much time thinking about shoplifting that I don’t have any quality time left to spend with my family or my hobbies. I wake up in the morning and I daydream about what I am going to take next. I want to stop, but I am obsessed with the thrill of getting away with it”  –Samantha

“I grew up in poverty. If I stop stealing I fear I will not be able to provide for my family. Deep down I know my thinking is wrong, but the fear remains, and so I keep stealing.” Andy

“Why shouldn’t I have nice things like other people have? Besides, it is the store who bombards me with advertisements that tell me I am a loser if I don’t have their products. I am simply making sure I am not a loser by stealing the things the store tells me I must have to be cool.” –Marley

“I am depressed because I want to be a good person, holding to the moral values my parents taught me, but my thoughts get hijacked and I find myself in the store again doing the very thing that contributes to my depression. Is there any way out after 35 years of daily theft?” –Trevon

“When I steal it is like a drug. There is a real thrill, like a high,  and a sense that I am good at something. Deep inside I know that my stealing is not a good thing, but it has become part of who I am. If I don’t steal for a while, I start to get a craving that is only quenched with another ‘successful getaway’ at one of my favorite targeted stores.” –Anne

“I feel like I am living a double life, and I fear that someone will find out my secret identity and that they would be ashamed of me. Shoplifting is eating me up on the inside, but everyone close to me thinks I am an honest and trustworthy person.” –John

Do you see yourself in the words of other people who have been addicted to shoplifting?

So what does it mean when a person is addicted to shoplifting? Dr. Lance M. Dodes, M.D. says that an addiction relieves a feeling of helplessness about some area of your life. He says that addiction is a behavior intended to reverse a profound, intolerable sense of helplessness. This helplessness is always rooted in something deeply important to the individual. Addiction, therefore, does not mean that you are weaker or less moral than others. It means that you feel helpless about something important to you and you are stealing in an attempt to deal with that feeling of helplessness. That’s right! If you have been thinking about your shoplifting as separate from the rest of your life, you are wrong. Your addiction is intertwined and connected with the rest of your life issues.

Your family and friends who discover that you are shoplifting may start asking, “Why are you doing this to yourself?” What they are really asking is, “Why are you doing this to yourself, and how could you do this to us?” Dr. Dodes gives the analogy of a person trapped in a mine that has caved in. That person wants out of a helpless situation, so he starts to claw at the fallen rocks and rubble. Fingernails are broken, skin is sliced and bleeding, and perhaps even bones are broken. Would you ask that person, “Why are you involved in self-destructive behavior?” The answer is obvious. The person just wants to break through the wall to freedom from his helpless situation, and until then he will continue the self-destructive behavior of clawing at rock. He knows no other way to help himself. Shoplifting may be your way of clawing your way out of situations in your life that you feel helpless to resolve.

Terrance Shulman, probably the most prominent authority on shoplifting addiction, defines addictive-compulsive theft as follows:

  1. Recurrent failure to resist obsessive, addictive, or compulsive thoughts/urges to steal objects which often are used even if not needed. (There are varying degrees of premeditation.)
  2. An ever-present tension usually felt well before commissioning of the theft.
  3. Feels pleasure/relief at the time of or just after committing theft, but usually guilt or shame afterward.
  4. The stealing is very often an acting out of anger or a way of trying to “make life right.”
  5. Most people who steal are good/caring/law-abiding (some get cross-addicted or get addicted to money or thrills)

You have now heard my story, listened to a few statements from other shoplifters, read Dr. Dodes’ idea about a stealing addiction, and have read Terrance Shulman’s description of what addictive compulsive theft looks like.

Use the lines below to talk to yourself about your own addictive compulsive stealing and how you relate to the words above. Do you see yourself in any of the stories, statements, or definitions? Take time to write a few lines about how addiction has affected your life, and the lives of your family and friends. Have you made a decision to stop steeas

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“If you quit trying now you will greatly decrease your odds for success.”
–Unknown

NOTE: Don’t forget to use the Shoplifting Resource Toolkit. http://helpforshoplifters.com/resources/toolkit/

Courage – Strength – Wisdom