Addiction Recovery | Shoplifting

In the 80s, Ghostbusters playing cards were all the rage. I once grabbed a pack, left the store, and didn’t think twice about it. At seven years old, I didn’t know I was doing anything wrong. This is my personal experience with shoplifting. It makes me wonder about my kids. How and when do you tell your story to your kids?

I asked a friend of mine to share his story about his shoplifting addiction–and what made him stop. He asked me not to use his name, but this is his story.

It was college and my roommates wanted to hang out at the mall. We were bored and wanted to do something fun and exciting. This is when I started shoplifting.

We decided to start a game of who could leave the store with the most expensive thing we hadn’t bought. It started with little things like trinkets with our names on it and then progressed to stealing hats or beanies. It was stupid, but it gave us a high.

At first, it was just a game. First we’d go to a store and befriend the employees. Then the employees let their guard down and would ignore us. That’s when we could get away with anything you wanted. After a while I become completely addicted. I loved the rush I felt when I would walk out the door with bags of items and didn’t get caught.

Then every time I went to the mall I had to steal. The game got bigger. And the thing was, I had enough money to buy the things I was stealing. I loved the rush and it was completely addicting.

One time, the group of us were in a store and had the idea that we wanted to take a nice digital camera. We went in with a plan–very Oceans 11–and knew where everyone was going and doing to make it happen. I was part of the group to get the camera out of packaging and into my friend’s bag to get out of the store. As we were heading out, we overheard on an employee’s headset, “That’s the shoplifter. Don’t let them leave!” We thought we were busted but going and we made it out! After this, we thought we could get away with anything.

We continued like this for years. Finally a friend walking out of a store with light bulbs and cleaning supplies. Suddenly he felt a hand on his shoulder. Busted! Now a member of our group had a record and suddenly more were getting caught. I on the other hand wasn’t getting effected by this. They were the ones getting caught, not me. I continued my shop lifting habit because I was getting amazing things and didn’t ever have to spend a penny.

A friend and I wanted to get new clothes for an upcoming trip. We went to the mall like we always did and \grabbed anything and everything we wanted. The thrill of it all had numbed my other emotions. I had no remorse. I thought I deserved the things I took. It was a lot of work to get them. I felt like I had earned them.

We were finally leaving the mall and—boom! “Put your hands behind your back and come with me.” The words I never wanted to hear. I was led to a back room where I was searched and interrogated in front of a video camera. They asked me tons of questions, but the one I will always remember is, “Why did you do it?”

My answer was, “I’m going on vacation, I wanted new stuff so that’s what I was doing.” This was the moment I realized I had a huge problem. Money wasn’t an issue and I did it anyway. It had become a habit. I never realized how bad it had gotten until then.

Incredibly I wasn’t arrested. I was just banned from that store for two years. But being caught changed me. I never shoplifted again. Quitting cold turkey was difficult at first, but I did it. Now I’m married and expecting a child, our first. I never want my child to fall into that type of addiction.

That’s my friend’s story. My kids are still young, and I want to be open with them if they feel like they have an issue. It’s important to have open communication with your children. No matter what issues they are going to face, they are going to be more willing to tell you about it if they feel they are comfortable talking to you about it. Have an active part in your kids’ lives and you will know when something is happening.