Q: I don’t know if you can help me or not. Actually, I don’t know if anyone can help me. I am an older lesbian, 65, and I have a problem that I am afraid will get me put in jail. I shoplift and I can’t seem to stop. I haven’t always done this; it started about five years ago and has just gotten worse.
I started with little things, like some make-up or earrings, those kinds of things. I have always had enough money to pay for pretty much anything I want, but I find myself just taking them instead of paying for them. Sometimes it is even things I don’t really want or need. I am always scared I will get caught, but when I get out the door undetected I feel elated.
Each time I take something I tell myself that it will be the last time, but pretty soon I find myself in a store, taking something. Last week I took a cell phone from a big store in town. I don’t even know how to get it activated, so it was pretty stupid to take it. I don’t ever get caught because I am good at it, and I don’t think anyone thinks that an older woman like me would be shoplifting, so they don’t ever check my bags or anything.
The other day I was going out the store with a stolen ring and the alarm at the door went off. I just stopped and asked if they wanted to check my bag, and the clerk said she didn’t want to; she was sure it was just a mistake. In a way I almost wished I would get caught so I would stop. I know it’s wrong to steal from others, but I just can’t seem to control myself – and, besides, I only do this at big stores, so I don’t think it will make much difference to them. I have thought about why I do this, and I think it may have something to do with being a lesbian and feeling that because of prejudice, my life has been stolen from me – and this is just payback.
What do I do to stop this? I am afraid I will get caught and the community will find out. That would be horrible for me. I really need the love and support I get from our community. I would appreciate any suggestions you have.
Older, But No Wiser
A: My suggestion to you is to go into your doctor and let her/him know what is going on. This sounds like a big change that happened five years ago. Was there anything going on then that made you start new medication? After having a complete physical to make sure nothing is going on that would cause this change, you need to seek mental health therapy. Your shoplifting seems compulsive and addictive. You need to have help in order to stop this behavior. Most likely, you will eventually be caught. Until you get this under control, stay out of stores or go with someone so you won’t be tempted to steal.
Give the gift of … education?
Q: I have two nieces and one nephew. They are all under four years old. I have been agonizing over their birthdays and Christmas this year because they always get so many toys, clothes and stuff that it seems ridiculous for me to add to the materialism. I wish I could just not give them any gifts. But that’s not what I really want, either. And not giving would make my family mad, so I am forced to give them something. Everyone knows I am not hurting for money, so they expect something really nice from me. Do you have any ideas what I could give that doesn’t add to the Christmas and birthday gluttony?
No Party Pooper
A: How about giving to their future education. Open an education account for them and add to it each year; that way you can give small gifts for them to open, but be giving something important for their lives. They’ll really appreciate it one day, and I bet their parents will too.