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posted Mar 30, 2012, 2:53 PM by Susannah Francis   [ updated Mar 30, 2012, 2:53 PM ]
By Zachary T. Francis

Wealthy people addicted to shoplifting (also known as boosting, five finger discount, or shrinkage within the retail industry) have been documented for over 200 years. Celebrities include Jane Austin's wealthy aunt (arrested in 1799 for stealing a piece of lace) and wealthy New York City philanthropist Elizabeth Phelps (arrested for stealing a small package of candy 70 years later). More recently, Cincinnati Reds pitcher Mike Leake was caught stealing $59 worth of apparel from Macy's. Just $59! And let's not forget the recent Winona Ryder who in 2001 was arrested for stealing $5500 worth of designer clothes.

The other day I read a story where a shoplifting addict was asked why she did it. She responded that it was exciting to see what you can get away with. She was addicted to the rush...the unknown...the fear of getting arrested. Now I'm not talking about people who shoplift to get money for drugs, alcohol, etc. This person was a middle class female who can afford what she is stealing. She is actually addicted to shoplifting. I started thinking, I wonder if people who struggle with shoplifting might also struggle with gambling because it seems like the same type of addiction. Here's how my brain went. Isn't getting 1,000,000 for $10 put in a slot machine done for similar reasons as getting two $50 dresses for the price of one through shoplifting? After all, don't they both involve adrenaline rushes with one being "what if you win" and the other "what if you get caught”? And then I got to thinking, could other adrenaline rush things such as watching sports, a TV show like 24, stock trading, and over-exercising be caused by the same addiction? Of course, not everyone is addicted to those things, but for certain people, could any of those things be addicting? After all, don't all of those cause the same adrenaline rush?

As I was telling you the other day, I was addicted to watching the Pacers for a period of time. This would not be considered an addiction by many, but a passion. "I love sports." "I'm a number 1 fan", etc. etc. etc. People love to say phrases like "my husband is obsessed with football" or "all she wants to do is go to the store and shop, shop, shop". Could that be, for some people, just another form of addiction especially when that "hobby" takes away from God, your marriage and/or your children? If you don't know me, I AM VERY ADDICTED TO GAMBLING. One time I withdrew money from my account that wasn't there. This was because I was on a gambling island (yes an island). They sail you there and then you come back in four hours. All that is there on the island are slot machines, card tables and an ATM) When I ran out of money, I saw the ATM glistening in the sun...calling my name. Even with the $5.00 withdraw fee, it was calling my name. I had already spent the money earlier that weekend, but I suspected that since it was a Sunday the amount wouldn't have gone out of my account yet. So when I withdrew money, it was almost like I was gambling as well. Will I get money out? Will I not get money out? Forget the fact that I will bounce my account tomorrow and receive a $39 late fee, I'm wanting the rush now! And I got money out! Score! And then I went and spent that $20 and won $40! Double score!!! Of course, I gambled that $40 away and came back with nothing. No I didn't come back with nothing, I came back with a $39 deficit. My wife always told me that when I gamble, my pupils get really big! Just like a drug addict!!!

Now let’s go back to what I said about the Pacers. I was mentioning that watching them was an escape. But what was addicting about it? Well I get excited about the score. If they are 20 points down, “will they come back”? If they do, adrenaline rush. Near the end of the game, if it's close, “will we win”? The unknown is an adrenaline rush. Then I start looking online, “if we trade for this player, will we win more” (thinking about the possibilities even now gives me an adrenaline rush). Gambling was addicting because it was the unknown. If I put a quarter in, will I get a million dollars? If I watch Game 4 vs. the Lakers and the Pacers win, the series will be at 2-2 and they have a better chance to get the NBA title. Will they win? Who knows! But when it's close I get an adrenaline rush because it is the unknown! I am addicted to the "what if" game. The unknown, just like shoplifters. "Will I get away with stealing this?" For me, unknown = adrenaline rush.

There are other things I can't do too often. EBay and Priceline. Why? Adrenaline rush. Will I get this hotel if I bid on it? Will I get this item on EBay if I bid on it. Forget the fact that I can afford it or if I even need it. The question is, “will I win? Will I get it? Will my team win? Will I win a million dollars at the casino? Will I get this shirt for free if I purchase two others and hide this one in my bag?” It's all a rush. The shoplifter I spoke about previously gets more excited with more security. Why? Because it's a challenge. If a store says they have increased security and "there is no way you can get away with stealing", this woman responds with "Oh yeah, watch me!" It becomes a even higher adrenaline rush!

So I guess what I'm trying to say is addiction is a lot bigger than I even thought it was. I believe it goes very well into how one sin leads to a second sin which leads to bigger sins. (What I talked about the other day.) I absolutely love the song "Slow Fade" by Casting Crowns. I believe addiction is like a slow fade. It is a slow fade when you give yourself away. It is a slow fade when black and white turn to grey. When thoughts invade and choices are made. Yes, when you move down those slippery slopes where other things get more important than Jesus, it definitely becomes a very slow fade!