Alice, a mother of three, was living the same double life as 23 million other Americans—including the rich and famous—until she finally hit rock bottom.
An addictive, compulsive shoplifter for more than five years, Alice would use every opportunity to get the high shoplifting brought her. Stealing mostly toys, videos and food items, she learned the security systems at Walmart, Target and some of the grocery stores in her neighborhood. Only after she was finally arrested did Alice face her life of shame and secrecy. She says her biggest fear is that the urge and temptation to shoplift will never go away.
"It's hard to tell people about this," said Alice. "I fear that people will think I'm not the person they know, that I'm not the compassionate, fun-loving person that I am. But I'm willing to tell my story, because I want to get the message out that you don't have to live in shame and secrecy."
When it comes to compulsive shoplifting, Alice is not alone. One out of every 11 Americans is shoplifting regularly and 90% of Americans have shoplifted at least once in their lives.
Terry Shulman, author of the self-help book Something for Nothing, is a recovering shoplifter who stole more than a thousand times before confronting his addiction. Today, Terry is a therapist who specializes in the treatment of this compulsion.
Terry explained why he considers shoplifting a disease that can be cured: "The nature of the addictive process, whether with drugs, alcohol, gambling, sex, eating or shopping, is that you can't stop on command. I consider myself to be forever recovering from my addiction—which gives me the opportunity to continue to learn about myself and grow and help others."
For more information about Terry's support group CASA (Cleptomaniacs and Shoplifters Anonymous), go to www.shopliftersanonymous.com.
When a parent lives a secret life, it can affect the whole family. Ann is a compulsive gambler who says her addiction has caused her to lose her home, her children's college tuition, her freedom and more. "[My gambling addiction] has cost me a lot," Ann says. "It's cost me my self-respect, my reputation, my ability to find good employment—it almost cost me my life."
Ann says the love and support of her family helped her pull through. "Even after it all, I'm glad my secret is out," Ann says. "I want to say to everyone out there that if you're involved with something like this, reach out to someone. Reach out and trust one other person to help you through this."
Dan, Ann's boyfriend when her gambling addiction skyrocketed, lost all of his savings as a result of Ann's compulsion. Yet, through it all, he realized Ann was still the person he had always known. Despite the hardships, Ann and Dan's relationship is still intact.
Oprah asked Dan if there were any signals he feels Ann gave when she was struggling with her addiction.
"You know, Oprah, it's funny," said Dan. "A gambler is the most fantastic con artist. They can tell you any story. I assume it's probably the same with most addictions. But they tell you a story that's so believable, it's impossible not to trust it. I guess my advice to anyone is if you feel the story is too perfect, that's when you should start to question it."
Lisa, a stay-at-home mom, sent her confession to our producers in an email. She wrote, "I am sincerely tired of pretending my life is perfect when in reality I'm in ruins."
Lisa is also a compulsive gambler who hid her addiction from friends and family for months. Just five days ago, she told her family about her double life and is ready to face up to the consequences.
Oprah applauded Lisa's courage in coming forward. "Nobody is insignificant and you are not your mistakes—you made a mistake," Oprah says. "I think the fact that you are here letting the rest of the world know you made a mistake is a very honorable thing to do. The fear you hold is that the people who love you won't love you anymore. The people who love you will still love you."
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