Happy Halloween, Thanksgiving and Holiday Season Kick-off!
Shulman presented online webinar on compulsive theft, spending &
hoarding 1-4 pm EST through Recovery Today Magazine. See: http://www.cdstudies.com/free-ceu-webinar-series.html
October 24--Mr. Shulman was
interviewed on Internet radio Voice America's"One Hour at a Time"
Shulman's interview on Michigan Entrepreneur channel aired on metroDetroit
Shulman presented on compulsive shopping/spending and hoarding disorder
from 7-9:30pm EST at The Birmingham (Michigan) Community House.
4--Mr. Shulman to present day-long seminar on
compulsive theft, spending and hoarding in Chicago through the llinois
Institute for Addiction/Recovery. This training is especially for
therapists. Cost is $100. See:
21-26-Mr. Shulman will be in New York City and
is working on several possible media appearances on the holiday season and
how it impacts compulsive stealing, spending and hoarding.
MR. SHULMAN OFFERING SPECIAL DISCOUNTED
"SAFE HOLIDAYS" COUNSELING TUNE-UPS AND GROUP PHONE THERAPY
SESSIONS! CONTACT HIM NOW BY E-MAIL/PHONE BEFORE THESE FILL!
IF YOU ARE A THERAPIST, PLEASE CONTACT MR.
SHULMAN TO FIND OUT ABOUT OUR NEW TRAINING/CERTIFICATION PROGRAM IN
COMPULSIVE THEFT, SPENDING and/or HOARDING!
GUEST HOUSE (A Thanksgiving Poem)
being human is a guest house.
morning a new arrival.
joy, a depression, a meanness,
momentary awareness comes
and entertain them all!
they are a crowd of sorrows,
violently sweep your house
treat each guest honorably.
He may be
clearing you out
dark thought, the shame, the malice.
at the door laughing and invite them in.
grateful for whatever comes.
each has been sent
guide from beyond.
-- Jelaluddin Rumi,
by Coleman Barks
HOLIDAYS CAN BE THE BEST OF TIMES OR THE WORST OF TIMES
So, here we are again: at the start of the holiday
season: Halloween, Thanksgiving, Hannukah, Christmas, New Years. Each of
us, especially those in recovery, has a choice how we want our holidays to
go. Research shows that addictions and relapses tend to increase during
these times. We don't have to fall off the deep end and go through the
ritual of making New Years resolutions on January 1st. It's been my
experience working with compulsive stealing, spending and hoarding that the
holidays are a particularly stressful and tempting time. Don't wait until
you're in the midst of the holiday craze to have an action plan: if you're
not preparing for recovery, you're preparing to relapse. Here are a few
tips to keep you centered and grounded and safe...
If you choose to shop, shop early, before the crowds hit.
Go through your belongings and see if there are any gifts you can re-gift
Set a budget that works for how much you can spend comfortably on yourself
Remember the spirit of the holidays--it's not about the things, it's about
the joy and shared experience with key family and friends.
If you have few family or friends and you're worried about loneliness, be
proactive and find local support group meetings, other open
gatherings/events, and make a plan to attend some: you might just make a
new friend or two.
Stop and remember what has happened and how you felt when you were in your addiction
during holidays past. Did you shoplift or steal from work and feel guilty?
Were you arrested or fired from a job for stealing? Did you break your
budget and regret it later, starting the new year stressed out? Did you
feel ashamed to have friends or family over because your home was a
disaster zone? KISS--Keep It Simple Silly!
If you have kids and you're feeling pressured to buy for them, stop and
remember what you're teaching them. Remember when you were a kid, it's most
likely your best memories are about the activities and the time together
you spent with loved ones, not the stuff you got! Be creative and get kids
engaged in activities they'll cherish forever. Take photos. Have fun!
If you feel lack due to finances or other issues in your life, consider
volunteering (and bring the kids, too, if you have them) at a homeless
shelter, soup kitchen, or donating Toys for Tots (again, recycle gifts if
need be). Bring a smile--safely and responsibly--to the lives of those less
Don't abuse alcohol, drugs or food: they're a waste of time, energy and
money. Have a plan to get some moderated exercise, get some outdoor fresh
air, eat healthy, get enough sleep, and find some quiet solitude.
If getting together with family/friends brings up difficult emotions,
choose either not to attend or minimize the time spent with them and
"book-end" your visits with calls to support people or meetings
before, during, and after your visit.
MAKE THE HOLIDAY SEASON A SUCCESS! REMEMBER YOU'RE IN
CHARGE OF YOUR EXPERIENCE!
SHULMAN INTERVIEW AND HIS NEW BOOK REVIEWED IN DETROIT METRO TIMES
Empty Souls: Compulsive Stealing, Spending & Hoarding
Guess what? You might
just be addicted to stuff! Author
SEPTEMBER 28, 2011
Lives, Empty Souls: Compulsive Stealing, Spending & Hoarding by Terrence Daryl Shulman
Infinity Publishing, $24.95, 247 pp.
See www.theshulmancenter.com or www.clutteredlives.com
caught stealin' and wonder why? Ever speculate why you can't stop blowing
every dime you get your hands on? Ever wonder if because you can no longer
navigate inside your cluttered home that you might have a thing about
hoarding? Ever consider that you have a problem?
Daryl Shulman can offer insight. He's a therapist, attorney and recovering
theft addict who has written extensively on compulsive behavior — namely
stealing, spending and hoarding — including three other books and various
newspaper articles. He has guested on many TV and radio shows here and
around the country as a kind of expert witness on the subject. The author
himself says he went from handcuffs to recovery to appearing on Oprah in 16
the worthy Cluttered
Lives, Shulman writes with the empathy of a longtime recovering
addict and details with aplomb the expanding and absurd cultural trends of
self-entitlement, and the compulsive behaviors that give rise to it in our
own lives. He does a commendable job explaining in simple terms the
sickness behind often complicated addictions that aren't so easy to detect;
an alcoholic is a lot easier to identify, than, say, an overspender — and
aren't most of us overspenders?
"prose" chugs along with command — unburdened by hackneyed
12-step dogma — but too often he furthers his points with interruptive
lists and factoids, half of which fascinate ("Time theft [loafing]
costs U.S. companies $500 billion a year in lost productivity.");
others just dull-down proceedings ("May 2011 Shulman Center Online
Theft Survey Results" — what?)
stories of clients and acquaintances, Shulman shows how compulsive stealing, spending
and hoarding are symptoms of deeper traumas and fear-based issues: We meet
a spending-addict businesswoman who's an autistic mother of two; we read
about a Vietnamese doctor and father of four who was discharged from the
U.S. military for shoplifting; we learn of a Frenchman who left his country
to avoid legal issues and physical harm from those he ripped off; another
example is a financial planner whose shopping and hoarding began to damage
her physical health.
overriding theme of Cluttered
Lives is out-of-control compulsivity, much like that featured on
TV shows such as Hoarders,
revealing an ugly underbelly to life that says we compulsively define
ourselves through stuff
— that is, we are what we can steal, what we go in debt to own, what we
hoard. That hole in your soul? That's where you put it. —Brian Smith
Terrence Shulman talks shoplifting, self-entitlement and addiction
Times: You were a kind of a kleptomaniac as a kid. What's the first
thing you'd say to a young sufferer now?
Shulman: I first shoplifted at about age 10 — a piece of candy —
around the time my parents were separating. I stumbled into shoplifting a
few years later as a result of keeping in a lot of intense feelings of
loss, anger and anxiety; I became the man of the house and assumed the role
of helper, which put a lot of pressure on me. Shoplifting became my secret
outlet to express my pain and symbolically try to get back what I felt I
lost, my childhood, my family, myself. So, I'd suggest to anyone who is
shoplifting, young or old: Get help now. I shoplifted for 10 years and was
arrested twice before getting help.
your book you connect character imperfections, such as narcissism and low
self-worth, to negative trends in society. Isn't it difficult to identify
compulsive behavior? What do you look for in those who appear to be OK on
the surface and functioning in society but are headed to addiction
I've heard it said that police officers develop a skill of
catching certain drunk drivers who appear to be trying to drive too
perfectly. In a similar vein, it's often the star employee who is led out
in handcuffs for employee theft or fraud. Many addicts — sometimes referred
to as "functional addicts" — can be quite adept at hiding or
overcompensating for their secretive, destructive behaviors. I was no
exception; I hid my shoplifting for a decade beneath a veneer of
perfectionism. Most persons who become addicts have struggled with low
self-esteem, usually due to abuse, neglect, trauma or poor role modeling;
they often learn to overcompensate and become great at achieving and giving
to others. But certain narcissistic or selfish traits usually develop — as
well as grandiosity — which really signal a deep-seated sense of inadequacy
and shame. I believe our society is fairly dysfunctional and narcissistic
due to pervasive emptiness and insecurity. We're constantly bombarded with
messages that tell us we're not good enough, we don't have enough and we
must be perfect, which fuels widespread addiction, which, in turn,
reinforces our feelings of inadequacy and insecurity.
the rise of social media, and video channels based on user-created content
such as YouTube, a person can now basically be anything they choose. And
the choices are often insincere, a kind of personal fraud. Does that
insincerity or insecurity lead to compulsive behaviors and addictions? Is
it already compulsive and addictive?
There's a wonderful line from Kurt Vonnegut short story
where a character asks: "Do you think every advancement in technology
is good for humankind?" We often seem to be more concerned about
quantity of connections rather than quality. It's been documented that a
byproduct of the Internet is addictions to sex, shopping, gambling, gaming
and even surfing the Internet itself. Yet, it's harder to avoid the
Internet than it is to avoid a bar, a casino, the mall or a strip club. So,
we have to find new ways to function without falling into a hole.
book is thrust largely on alluring personal experiences of others, so it's
not exactly a "how to" self-help guide to recovery. But a close
read reveals many recovery answers are in the actual stories. Was this intentional?
"Human face" stories are what we relate to most.
The fascinating thing about these stories, to me at least, is how similar
most people's issues are, even though their addictive tendencies manifest
differently. As a recovering person myself since 1990, I relate to addicts
and know the struggles of recovery and peeling back the layers of the onion
to get to greater self-awareness.
you think our culture — that is, American culture — is beginning to revolve
around a rising narcissistic idea of self-entitlement?
I think we're living in a "me" culture instead of
a "we" culture. Look at our political system and the difficulty
with compromise. Giving in to others is viewed as a sign of weakness. Kids,
in general, see the few stories of those who've gotten rich or famous at a
young age and feel like this should come easily and quickly to them as
well. Addiction thrives on impatience and entitlement.
does one detect inner compulsive behavior? What are the signs that it's progressing?
It's true that people can be in denial that they have an
addiction or a compulsion even though nearly everyone around them sees a
problem; after all, denial stands for "don't even know I am
lying." But most addicts know they have a problem on some level — they
can see or feel it progressing in their stress, anxiety or the various
problems in their lives, be they financial, health, legal, relational, etc.
But the denial process leads most addicts to blame others, society, God or
bad genes for their problems. Change is a process. So, as we see, this is
why recovery is a one-day-at-a-time, ongoing journey of change.
SHULMAN FEATURED IN ARTICLE ON HOARDING DISORDER IN DETROIT JEWISH NEWS
By Ronelle Grier
back room of the Franklin Public Library is filled to capacity on this
recent fall evening, but none of the men and women sitting in the large
circle has come here to read. They are here to learn about a disorder known
as hoarding from author, attorney, therapist and consultant Terrence
Shulman, whose latest book is called Cluttered Lives, Empty Souls:
Compulsive Stealing, Spending and Hoarding.
Shulman, a former
shoplifting addict who has been in recovery more than 20 years, specializes
in the treatment of compulsive and often-related behaviors such as
kleptomania, shoplifting, employee theft, uncontrollable shopping and
spending, and hoarding.
to Shulman, hoarders come from a variety of backgrounds; many had parents
who hoarded, while others were forbidden to keep their own possessions. The
common denominator is the emotional attachment to the clutter. A person who
hoards finds it difficult, if not impossible, to discard things, even items
that are no longer useful, such as old newspapers or moldy bread.
says the distinguishing factor of hoarding is the inability to discard
things because of an emotional attachment, to the point where the living
spaces are too cluttered to be used for their intended purposes.
B. said he came to hear Shulman's presentation because of his mother, whose
home was so cluttered that he feared for her safety. The problem, which
began during his childhood, had gotten worse once the kids had grown up and
left home. "I
could never have friends over; there was no room," he said. "To
my mother, getting rid of stuff is like giving away a piece of yourself."
kind of situation is typical, according to Shulman, who has worked with
people whose homes are filled with excessive amounts of items ranging from
jewelry and clothing to expired coupons, empty yogurt containers and even
H., a retiree, said he has been trying to get rid of the piles of old
paperwork that have gradually overtaken more and more of his living space.
room isn't really that small; it's just that I have so much junk it makes
it look small," he said. "I don't know why I'm holding onto this
stuff. I'm trying to let go of things, but it's a slow process."
believes that "a complicated equation of risk factors," which
includes genes, chemical imbalance, heredity and environment, determines
whether a person develops a hoarding disorder. He also attributes the
behavior to what he calls "spiritual risk factors," such as
childhood trauma or other emotionally wounding experiences.
may be also be some organic differences in the brain of a hoarder, but it
is possible to build new neuronal pathways to change the behavior,"
said Shulman, founder and director of the Franklin-based Shulman Center for
Compulsive Theft, Spending and Hoarding.
are no statistics on the incidence of hoarding among Jewish people;
however, some experts believe certain factors may cause Jews to engage in
who survived the Holocaust may be more likely to stockpile items such as
food and household goods, according to Dr. Charles Silow, director of
programming for Holocaust Survivors and Families at Jewish Senior Life.
survivors who went through such extreme deprivation, including starvation,
have a sense of fear that what they have could be taken away again,"
Silow said. "As they built new lives, many would accumulate things
like canned goods or extra linens. They want to psychologically assure
themselves that it won't happen again."
agrees that the Holocaust as well as other individual and collective
traumas such as war, violence and anti-Semitism can trigger hoarding
often results in reaction to loss of control, fear of property being taken
away, and loss of security," Shulman said.He added that the
generalized value that many Jews place on acquiring things can cause these
people to become hoarders. In addition to those that he treats
professionally, Shulman said he has seen evidence of hoarding among Jewish
people he knows on a personal basis, including some friends and relatives.
M., one of several local Jewish hoarders who spoke out but wanted to remain
anonymous, said his family never ate a meal at the kitchen table because it
was perpetually covered with newspapers and other clutter that his ex-wife
refused to remove. Every time he would try to clear the mess away, she
would become extremely agitated, telling family members not to "touch
article in Time magazine estimated that between 6 million and 15 million
people in the United States have the mental health disorder known as
hoarding. The condition has received attention in recent years from popular
television shows such as Hoarders and Hoarding: Buried Alive.
is the word used by Clinton Township therapist Debbie Stanley to describe
those shows, which she claims are unrealistic and misleading.
show the worst-case scenarios, people with very little insight and a lot of
squalor," said Stanley, who specializes in treating chronic
disorganization and hoarding. "My clients are well functioning — some
are extremely high functioning — and they are not dirty."
added that the shows' quick-fix solutions, where years of clutter disappear
in the course of one weekend, are misrepresentative.
said that two years of treatment, including psychotherapy and hands-on
decluttering, is a reasonable time period for achieving a successful
outcome. The transformation can take place more quickly when the client
agrees to use outside help to perform the clean-up, but Stanley stresses
that the person doing the hoarding should make the decisions about what to
away a person's coping mechanism before a better one has been
gradually established is not only cruel, but it doesn't work," she
said people who hoard often exhibit related compulsive behaviors such as
kleptomania, shoplifting and excessive shopping and spending. Hoarding can
include people whose homes are overrun by animals to the point of posing a
health hazard. Many individuals now engage in a process known as digital
hoarding — their computers are filled with thousands of emails, photos and
electronic files they are emotionally unable to delete.
J. decided to seek professional help as she approached her 70th birthday.
Always a collector, Nina now has more than 2,000 pairs of earrings,
countless pieces of costume jewelry, which she stores away in plastic boxes
and a bag filled with 200 nightgowns she has never worn.
would save things for best, and best never came," said Nina, who also
has so many houseplants that it takes an entire day to water them.
also engaged in compulsive shoplifting, a behavior she has since overcome
through a combination of therapy and 12-step meetings.
was arrested three times, and it still wasn't a deterrent," she said.
"It began to make me sick; it was a real conflict between the person I
knew I could be and a crazy lady."
still has not overcome her compulsion to shop and stockpile items she knows
she will probably never use. She has tried to get rid of some of her
possessions through consignment shops, but ends up returning to the store
to buy them back.
once gave some clothes away to a friend and went into terrible mourning and
agony," she said. "I humiliated myself by asking for them back.
She just laughed at me. I find that people just can't comprehend; they have
felt the therapy she received did not help her overcome her
emotional attachment to the possessions that fill several areas of her
amount of looking at why was helpful," she said. "Many other
people have the same why's, but they don't hoard."
believes the key to successful treatment is getting to the root of the
hoarding behavior. She said it is common for concerned family members to
want to swoop in and perform a major cleanup, thinking this will resolve
the problem. According to Stanley, this kind of well-intentioned
intervention can do more harm than good.
not about the stuff," she said. "First you have to honor the fact
that this behavior is serving them in some way."
has worked with clients who used the clutter as a kind of barricade; they
felt that being surrounded by a lot of things protected them from robbers
or other invaders.
heard people say they feel more vulnerable when the clutter begins to
go," she said. "I tell clients, 'First you have to figure out
what the hoarding is giving you. If it's safety, then let's find another
way to make you feel safe.'"
adding extra locks or installing an alarm system will reduce the fear so
the client can begin to deal with the mess.
in its extreme, can pose serious health and safety hazards. West Bloomfield
Fire Chief Jay Wiseman estimates that his staff members encounter at least
one hoarding situation in any given month when responding to medical
emergencies. Wiseman said that severe clutter makes rescue efforts more
difficult for EMS workers, who have encountered homes where floors are
completely covered with shoulder-high stacks of newspapers, piles of
clothing and overflowing shopping bags. Navigating through narrow paths,
known as "goat trails," can be dangerous, especially in emergency
situations where every second counts.
said that hoarding also increases the chances of a fire, especially when
the clutter spills over into utility rooms where hot water heaters are
substantial number of fires are caused by combustibles that are too close
to a water heater or other igniter, such as a space heater," said
said that stockpiling old newspapers, clothes, books and other household
items adds to the overall weight of the house, increasing the risk of
structural collapse. When unsanitary or otherwise dangerous situations are
discovered by public safety workers or township code enforcement personnel,
the resident is usually referred to a local social service agency.
try to get these people help," Wiseman said. "There's usually
some degree of mental illness involved."
is currently no insurance diagnostic code for hoarding, although treatment
is sometimes covered using diagnoses of depression, anxiety or obsessive
compulsive disorders, conditions that can also be present in people who
hoard. A new category for hoarding disorder will be included in the fifth
edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders
(DSM-5), which comes out in May 2013.
a published writer and poet, said she is more optimistic now than she was a
year ago when she discontinued therapy. She hopes her attachment to
material possessions will lessen as she grows older.
wouldn't know to look at me that I have this problem," she said.
"My mind is not the mess that my house is. It's like I'm two people."
NOTHING IS NOT CRIMINAL!
Stanley, LLPC, NCC, CPO-CD
Boston Market used to have
a salad that I found especially delicious. I discovered the "used
to" part the last time I went there with a hankering for that salad.
When I learned they had discontinued it, I stepped out of line and left
without buying anything. I wasn't mad, didn't make a scene--I just wanted
what I wanted, and I wasn't going to settle for something else just because
I was there.
The employees and the other
customers all gave me the same look, one that said, "Seriously? Aren't
you hungry? Just pick something else."
But I wanted a salad, none
of the others appealed to me, and I knew that Panera has another salad that
I find especially delicious, so I went and got that one.
I see too much
settling-for-less among my clients. It makes me loath to do it myself. If
they don't have what you really want, sometimes you might have to settle
(if you're too hungry to wait, say), but more often you could just leave
This is not something that
came naturally to me. As a child, I acquired the message that people who
leave a store without buying anything probably stole something. I don't
know who taught me that, but I know it's a belief I carried well into
adulthood. I felt like I was doing something wrong if I couldn't find
anything I wanted and left the store emptyhanded. I felt like I had to buy
something to legitimize my presence there.
Eventually, I came to
resent this and I started to leave without buying-just-to-buy, but it felt
really strange. I felt like all eyes were on me--especially security. I was
careful not to hurry, to keep my head up so I wouldn't look guilty, to hold
my hands away from my body ... all contortions to demonstrate my innocence.
I hadn't done anything
wrong, but leaving emptyhanded felt criminal.
Maybe stores perpetuate
this feeling intentionally. Have you noticed how many of them make it
difficult to leave without goingthrough the checkout lines? My favorite is
to leave a warehouse club without any purchases--no receipt for the
suspicious door person to mark off with a highlighter. Oh how they
scrutinize me as I leave emptyhanded. The irony there, of course, is that
pretty much everything they sell is in huge packages. I couldn't fit a
pallet of paper towels in my pocket or my very small purse. So they look at
me like, "Nobody leaves here without buying. Where did she hide
it?" At first it rattled me, but now it gives me smug satisfaction.
Try it sometime: Go to a
warehouse club, look around at the things you don't need, and leave without
buying anything. Join me in the resistance. See: www.ThoughtsInOrder.com
Check out our new online
support group for compulsive shoppers/spenders and hoarders. To register,
go to: www.yahoogroups.com/shoppersandspenders/
Check out our 1-hour
employee theft online course. Learn why people commit employee theft, how
to deter it, and how to confront it. See http://theshulmancenter.c360training.com
New sites in progress! www.celebrityshoplifters.com and www.celebrityshopaholics.com
THEFT, SPENDING and HOARDING on the MOVE and in the NEWS!
October 21--Mr. Shulman presented a 3-hour webinar on
compulsive theft, spending and hoarding through Recovery Today Magazine
(online). See: http://www.cdstudies.com/free-ceu-webinar-series.html
Shulman was interviewed on compulsive stealing, spending and hoarding on
Voice America internet radio's "One Hour at a Time"
show. See: www.voiceamerica.com/episode/57105/cluttered-lives-empty-souls-compulsive-stealing-spending-and-hoarding
Shulman spoke on compulsive shopping/hoarding at the Birmingham (MI)
November 4--Mr. Shulman to present day-long
seminar on compulsive theft, spending and hoarding in Chicago, through
IIAR. See: http://www.addictionrecov.org/Registration%20PDFs/2011/Shopping_Training_Nov_2011.pdf
December 2011 and beyond ...
December 1--Mr. Shulman speaks on compulsive
theft/spending/hoarding at Detroit area Rotary Club.
Shulman is assisting the Baton Rouge, Louisiana court system a
court-ordered three hour, facilitated educational program for retail fraud
offenders. The program is based on material from his book "Something
for Nothing: Shoplifting Addiction and Recovery" (2003).
Mr. Shulman created a 1-hour employee
theft online course with 360 Training. Learn why people steal from their
jobs, how to deter it, prevent it, and what to do when confronted with it.
See or enroll in course at: http://theshulmancenter.360training.com
Shulman is consulting on a major motion picture tentatively called
"The Rush" in which the lead character is addicted to shoplifting
Shulman created an online continuing education course on compulsive
shopping and spending called "Bought Out and $pent!" based on his
book and Power Point presentation. The course, offered through The American
Psychotherapy Association, is available for purchase by APA members and
non-members. CEUs are available. He's working on a therapist certification
program in compulsive theft/spending. See: http://www.americanpsychotherapy.com/