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Kleptomaniac Turned Therapist Helps Others Control Urge To Steal

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FERNDALE (WWJ) - A local lawyer who was addicted to stealing for 10 years is now using his experiences to help other kleptomaniacs turn their lives around.

Terrance Shulman is an attorney and a counselor, but unlike most of his cohorts, he is also a recovering kleptomaniac. The 46-year-old said his stealing problem began when he was 15-years-old and lasted for a decade.

“I was going through some emotional troubles in my life, some family issues, and I actually got addicted to shoplifting. I never thought people could get addicted to that, I knew about drugs an alcohol, but a lot of people do get addicted to shoplifting,” he said.

Shulman said the habit often starts when a person is under a heightened amount stress and increases until it snowballs out of control. And it’s not always about what is stolen, but about the rush a person gets from the action of stealing.

“I estimated that over a 10 year period, I probably shoplifted about 1,000 times and the average price of an item that I took was probably under $10. It can be a thrill but then after a while, just like anything, once you’re in the clutches of it you have to keep doing it and you don’t necessarily get a high, it’s just that you try to maintain a sense of normalcy. Because when you stop doing it, you go through withdrawal symptoms, you become preoccupied, you become agitated and you almost need your fix just to function,” he said.

After being arrested twice, Shulman decided it was time to change his life and get help. He saw a therapist, worked on obtaining his law degree and turned his life around. He now works as an addiction therapist, helping people who are just like him control the urge to steal.

“For people who are in recovery, it is vital that we have health around our money, health around our communication and conflict resolution skills and really, health around balance and kind of slowing down in this fast pace world,” he said.

Shulman said studies show that shoplifting and employee theft are on the rise.

“Apparently in the U.S., during the holiday season from roughly just before Thanksgiving through the beginning of January, it’s thought that about one-third of all of the shoplifting during the year happens during that two month period,” he said.

Shulman also said that among married couples, it’s more common to see shoplifting tendencies in women than in men.

“A classic case is when the husband is really tight with the budget and their money, and the wife is wanting to hide from that and she may find out that it’s easier to steal a few things than have to explain it. Actually, women will over-shop and open up secret accounts and stuff like that to hide it too,” he said.

Shulman will be speaking at the “Living Recovery in an Addictive World” conference in Ferndale on Saturday, April 14 at 8: 30 a.m., where he will talk about shoplifting, over-shopping, overspending, whoring and several other topics. Entry fee is $15, and all the proceeds will be donated to St. Luke’s Episcopal Church.

For more information, visit www.theshulmancenter.com.

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