I am a person with a big problem.. I am a kleptomaniac. I am not a thief but I was recently arrested and jailed for shoplifting... again. I may be going to prison this time and I'm terrified what this will do to my family, my reputation, and my future. Is PRISON the end of the line for me?
I want to stop shoplifting but I can not seem to on my own. I look for support groups every week in my city and there are NONE. There is a support group on every corner here for drug and alcohol addiction, and many other forms of addiction, but none for kleptomania... not even close to one for the problem I have.
I am in treatment with a therapist and a psychiatrist but it obviously was not enough to prevent me from a relapse. My husband does not understand why I just don't stop. My husband waxes that he gives me plenty of money to buy anything I need or want, and I have my own money from my own job so why do I keep doing this?! I can not make my husband understand that it's not about money or things I want, or wanting more attention.. it is about the strong urge I feel to steal from a store, anything, so the anxiety I feel will go away. I feel ashamed later and hide the things I steal in the trunk of my car, and I end up donating them to a charity or returning the things I stole back to the store I stole them from. I feel so guilty and ashamed and the cycle then keeps going on and on.. anxiety, urges to shoplift, relief while shoplifting, guilt over shoplifting, shame..repeating until arrested.
If I were an alcoholic or a drug addict I would be understood and supported but because I am a kleptomaniac no one really "gets it".. not even me.
Am I alone?? Or are there others out there with the same problem I have who can really relate???

Notatheif Notatheif
46-50, F
3 Responses Dec 11, 2013

I worked in retail loss prevention for many years. During that time, I apprehended only a few kleptomaniacs. Please know that it isn't common by any means, but you are not alone.
The ladies, yes they were all ladies, that I caught were surprised when I started talking to them. They usually had a bad relationship with at least one of their family members. Most were estranged from their husband. They truly didn't understand why they took things.
I don't know what will help you. Therapy may work. I know that prison won't. I caught a couple of the women again after they had already been to court.
Just know that you aren't alone. Maybe make a commitment to your husband that you will not enter a store without him by your side. That's easy for me to say, but it's the only advice I can offer.

Let me also add that if you have a bad relationship with someone in your family, fix it. That may help. I always had the feeling that the ladies I apprehended were shoplifting because they knew that eventually they would get caught, and by getting caught, they would get attention from someone - anyone. Maybe they were looking for attention that they had hoped to get from someone else?

Thank you for the advise. Since I posted my letter I have been in a support group for addiction. It's not specifically for kleptomania (Narcotics Anonymous) . My first meeting I said to the group, "My name is (blank) and I'm an addict. I described the urges I have to "pick up' but I never said that my addiction was shoplifting. After my third meeting I confessed (through lots of tears) that my addiction is stealing, and every person in my group were incredibly supportive, "addiction is addiction whether it's drugs, food, shoplifting or whatever". It's made a huge difference being able to talk about my problem without fear of being shamed or feeling stupid with people (other than my therapist or doctor) and because they are addicts they don't judge me. I use the tools I've learned in therapy; keeping a picture of my family taped to the dashboard of my car and a copy of my arrest report in the seat next to me, wearing gloves on my hands, no purses, jackets or clothes with pockets, making a list of the items I am there to purchase and sticking only to those items. But the biggest help to my recovery, and not relapsing again, has come from people like you and the people in my group, especially the people in my group. Thank you for making change for the better possible in my life!

I can relate to your experience, though I've never been caught. I hope that you don't end up in prison. This is an illness, and the fact that it's also a crime only compounds the problem. Your comment about being unable to find a support group is something I can relate to as well. This is the closest I've come to any kind of support, and just telling someone, anyone my secret is helpful.

This is an illness and it's more elusive than I imagined. It's not one that can be clearly seen unless you are arrested, and the idea of arrest and the shame prevents people from getting help. I was lucky that I didn't end up in prison and hit that rock bottom level (I have been arrested 9 times). I was also lucky enough to have very talented lawyers who were able to show that other than shoplifting I have never been arrested, and I have been in therapy for years prior to my first arrest ( I'm in my mid forties and have been shoplifting since I was a teenager) I am in a support group now (Narcotics Anonymous) for addiction. A close friend who is a recovering alcoholic suggested I go there and give them a try. during my first meeting all I said was my name and I'm an addict. It wasn't until my third meeting that I said shoplifting was my addiction. Addiction is addiction and we are all there to stop our self destructive behavior. And I know exactly how you feel when you wrote that just telling someone is helpful, and the more people you can tell who won't judge you and really understand does make an enormous difference. My husband still doesn't have an idea why I need to go to group meetings or see my therapist to stop. But he's glad I'm doing it. My mother-in law owns a CPA business and one of her biggest clients owns a store I was caught shoplifting in. My husband is still angry or he makes jokes about my kleptomania. He said to me that maybe he just needs to buy a store and fill it full of merchandise so I can go shoplifting there when I want to. I'm learning that the root of any addiction is emotional turmoil within yourself and facing that is really the toughest part. Addictions make sense, life doesn't.

I'm like this, too. Although I have never shoplifted, I do steal things from others and take it home.