One in 11 people has either shoplifted or is willing to shoplift, according to the National Association for Shoplifting Prevention.
A vast majority of shoplifters aren’t professionals. They don’t plan to steal. They don’t even plan to use or sell what they take. They find solace in shoplifting.
But the price they usually end up paying can cost them their friends, family and their freedom.
A former shoplifter, who is remaining anonymous for her protection, explained how that was true for her.
“I would say in high school was when I really noticed it," she said. "I would start getting anxiety attacks and then how I would deal with it was I would go to stores and not even recognize that I was shoplifting but take something and conceal it, take it home and then hide it in like a pile in my closet.
“There was Clorox wipes, there was shoes, it could be anything at the moment. It didn’t matter what it was because it wasn’t an object I was going to use. It was something I stole just to take away the anxiety.”
This went on for two years. Sometimes it was a blur.
“The only thing I was really aware of in the moment was how stressed out I was, what I needed to do to calm myself down," she said. "There were a few times I ended up taking them back to the store or the person I took it from because I was able to realize the fact that I stole the item and I felt guilty.”
There are so many different stressors in life that can trigger someone’s inner thief. She sought help from a counselor and learned how to manage her stress and anxiety. It’s been several years since her last steal.
“I don’t have to worry about police coming to knock on my door," she said. "I’m free of that guilt. I’m free of that hold that was on me and I’m able to control and be aware of what I’m doing. My mentality now is that I think about all the things I would miss if I was in prison.”
Now that she’s told her side of the story, she’s hoping others like her will keep the conversation going.
“It’s not that you’re a bad person," she said. "It’s that you need to seek help in a positive way and I would like to start to help people by creating a support group where people can feel confident and secure to discuss this because it’s not easy to discuss.”
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