Wondering... Why did he steal from friends?

Discussion in 'Substance Abuse' started by SuZir, Jun 12, 2012.

  1. SuZir

    SuZir Well-Known Member

    This is not acute matter at all, just something I have been wondering past few days.

    My difficult child got himself addicted to gambling, mainly poker and other internet casino stuff, around two years ago. He was still 16 at the time and used other people identity to have an access in the first place. First he was able to gamble using his pocket money, then he won bit more once and that was that really started an addiction. After that he started to loose and quickly lost all the money he had. But at that point he was already compulsive and first started selling his things in local craigslist equivalent and to people he knew. That money didn't last long and he started to steal from home. That I can easily understand. It was easy and we didn't even notice it at first. But then he started to steal from his team mates and that I don't really get. They were closest things he had for the friends. They didn't like him in the first place, he was anything but popular and there had been fights and trouble but still they had his back. I can still understand how it started, he probably was alone at the locker room and noticed someone had left some money to be seen and impulsively took it. But he continued doing it quite some time. He didn't get a lot of money, they were after all other kids' pocket moneys. And he had to know he was going to get caught and it would cost him awfully lot. His reputation, his friends, his place in the team, his dreams, his sport. He was stealing from locked room with very limited access, he had to know, he would soon be caught. And he was and it really ended up being spectacular crash and burn and cost him awfully lot. He has recouped better than anyone would had believed even a year ago, but it has been very hard for him. Consequences have been harsh in many ways.

    Afterwards he was of course asked if friendship, honour, his sport or anything else didn't mean anything for him, but we never really got an answer. And I just assumed that the addiction was so strong, he had to get money somehow to continue. And that is certainly part of it. But last week he confessed that he did shoplift a lot earlier, when he was 13 to 15 and never got caught. He was coerced and blackmailed to that by few bullies with whom he desperately wanted to be friends with. After hearing that I have been wondering, why he didn't do the same when he needed money for gambling. He could had shoplifted and sold things to his school mates or through craigslist. If caught the consequences would had been minimal compared to stealing from team mates. And he knew how to do it and hadn't been caught earlier. And as I said, he had to know he would be caught while stealing from team mates. And he probably would had gotten more money than from his friends. It just doesn't make any sense to me.

    I can't ask this from difficult child even now. He is under a lot of stress and pressure and doesn't need me to start digging old things up. There is enough of stress and challenge for him to handle without that. The new very high pressure situation with his sport, the rather tough behaviour modification program he has agreed into, on-going social issues inside his current team, deciding if this is time and place there he wants to really tackle some of the root causes of his problems (PTSD type symptoms from years of very bad bullying), getting his school finished and handling all the normal problems one has to handle while trying to grow up and become independent. So it would not be a good idea to harass him any more with these old things and demand explanations. And maybe he doesn't even have one. But still I wonder. He is a fool, but he is not stupid. Did he want to get caught? Or was it just passive-aggressive revenge? Or self-sabotage for the heck of it? I just don't get it.
    Last edited: Jun 12, 2012
  2. AmericanGirl

    AmericanGirl Guest

    From what my 18 year old newly recovering son tells me, anything is game. The list of what he has done literally brought me to my knees.

    The addiction doesn't have friends. And when it is active, it controls the person. So, basically anything is impossible and nothing is off limits. It simply does what it needs to do to get what it wants.

    The more I read and learn about addiction, the more I know that I will never truly understand the thought patterns. I can only accept them and use that information to cope better.

    Just my two cents...
  3. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    EvanBaxter, you do not seem to understand the purpose of this website. What a pity you did not have Warrior Parents like the ones here, in your own childhood (which you clearly are still enmeshed in). Maybe a decent upbringing would have taught you compassion and human decency.

    Considering what the members of this site have to deal with in our lives, your attempts are not even on the radar. Totally outclassed in every way.

    Oh, the door's thataway... don't let it hit you too hard on the way out!

  4. SuZir

    SuZir Well-Known Member

    That part I do get and that is what I have been thinking last year and a half after he was caught steeling and all this came up. But why did he chose to steal the way he did. I mean, he basically had two choices:

    a) Steal from friends, small gain, high risk, almost 100 % over time, to get caught, huge practical and emotional consequences when caught, huge, huge shame even while doing it
    b) Shoplift, more non-personal, smaller risk to get caught, minimal consequences compared to option a, higher gain

    And he chose a. If I had been my difficult child, I would never had chosen a, because it just makes no sense. And while my son was addicted, he was not under influence of drugs or alcohol that could explain the sheer stupidity of that. Not that I'm sorry he chose option a. As hurtful as it has been, as long as he will be paying a price from that choice (and it will be long, it is not fun to be a pro-athlete when everyone and their cousins know you have been stealing from your team mates), as awful as the fallout was, I'm still happy he chose a. Because if he had chosen b, I'm afraid he would still be gambling, be deeply in debt and really ruined his life by now. Consequences of choosinf option b would maybe not had been so severe that his life really ended up to full stop. And full stop was needed. After that he has been doing surprisingly well in recovery. He is motivated, he really tries and works hard. He has had only two relapses and they have been really short (other one night and another two nights) and it is already a year from the last one. He has been gaining back his old standings and he is doing better in every aspect of his life than maybe ever before. There is still awfully lot work to be done, but even now he has made me one proud mommy.

    So I'm grateful he did choose the option a. But it still doesn't make sense to me. Did he try to be as hurtful as possible? Or what?
    Last edited: Jun 13, 2012
  5. flutterby

    flutterby Fly away!

    He wasn't thinking that far ahead. It's impulsive and thoughts of consequences don't come until later. difficult child 2 and recently his younger brother (that one surprised me) both stole from me in ways that were impossible not to get caught. They were only thinking of immediate gain - instant gratification - and thoughts of consequences didn't enter until later. Even at that, the consequences don't outweigh the addiction. The addiction and whatever it takes to feed it will win every time. The money was there - he took it. It's that simple. Addicts don't think it through like you are trying to.
  6. SuZir

    SuZir Well-Known Member

    That part I kind of get. Well, not really, but I know it is like that. Addiction is stronger than consequences or anything else. I do not wonder why he started to steal from locker room. It was because there was an opportunity and he needed money and impulsively he took it. But after that he had to make an effort to get that opportunity. Manipulate, plan etc. It wasn't just an easy, impulsive act later on. And it certainly wasn't that when they were already trying to find out who it was who kept on stealing. He did steal many times over period of time and whole time it got more difficult. The shoplifting would had been much easier thing to do. Not just less consequences but quicker, bigger gain, less planning etc. needed. And as I said, he had done also that earlier, knew how to do it and probably thought he would not be caught because he never had been before.
  7. DammitJanet

    DammitJanet Well-Known Member Staff Member

    I know from something Cory told me and his psychiatrist the other day something which might be helpful to you. He said when he was younger he had such poor impulse control that when he saw something his thoughts went "I see it, I want it, I will take it no matter whose it is." That of course got him into a ton of trouble. Now his impulse control is slightly better because I yanked his chain up and charged him for stealing from me and like he told the doctor...now its "I see it, I want it, I buy it and then Im sorry about it." Much better way. We just have to get past the impulse of I see, it and I have to have it immediately. Thats a very bad habit in my house. I have that issue and both Cory and Jamie are that way.
  8. SuZir

    SuZir Well-Known Member

    Impulsiveness is certainly a big factor. Luckily my difficult child is not quite as bad with it as your Cory is Janet. But it is certainly a huge thing for also him. He is getting better and can nowadays even show some discretion and thinking ahead at times, but yeah "i didn't think" has always been big in this house. And maybe I'm just thinking too much. I just fear, that if it wasn't sheer impulsiveness and addiction, but something deeper, resentment, self-sabotage, passive-aggressiveness or something, it is more likely to be back biting his butt now even though his addiction is not active.
  9. Malika

    Malika Well-Known Member

    My piece of armchair psychology about this is that he was possibly getting unconscious revenge on the people he stole from - either on them specifically or on the people who bullied him. I've no idea but I wouldn't be surprised if stealing was a classic response to being bullied. Not that I am "excusing" it... but, to me, it's definitely an act of aggression in some way, someone who feels powerless trying to get back a bit of power, in an inappropriate way.
  10. SuZir

    SuZir Well-Known Member

    Malika, this is something I have been mulling over. After difficult child got caught gambling and stealing, it was, in some very odd way, almost comforting to me. Finally there was a clear cut problem that had a clear cut solution. He is an addict, he needs to stop addictive behaviour and recover from addiction. Of course that is not easy in any way. But at least it was a solution.

    But I'm afraid that the truth is that my difficult child was troubled boy before he first time saw a internet poker site and he is still troubled boy even while in good recovery from his addiction. And that scares me, because I can so easily see him always finding new ways to mess up. Often you read about the mothers who tell how drugs or alcohol took away her perfect child, who changed to someone she can not even recognize. Not so for me. I never had that perfect child (well in difficult child anyway) and even when his addiction was active, his behaviour wasn't 'just an addiction talking and making choices.'
  11. Nancy

    Nancy Well-Known Member Staff Member

    I think it is more likely that there is no hidden meaning to why he stole from friends other than shoplift except the fact that taking from his friends was easier. He very well could have thought that shoplifting from a store could have gotten himinto more trouble than just taking from friends, who may not press charges.

    From what I have learned from difficult child she began stealing very early on and no matter what the consequences were she didn't seem to care because when young she wanted and she just took it. Seh began strealing from us, we didn't know it at the time until we began not having as much money in our wallet/purse as we should have. From that she just learned more ways to steal and there was a time when shoplifting was her norm. Then she stole form her employers. Shoplifting entailed a big risk if she were caught and then she had to go to the trouble of reselling the stuff. Stealing from friends was rather easy, just took whatever money she could find in their belongings.

    I have found that difficult child's who steal have no boundaries. They will steal from whomever they can in order to get the money the fastest and easiest way possible, irregardless of consequences.

  12. SuZir

    SuZir Well-Known Member

    Here is a problem. Stealing from friends in fact was more difficult for difficult child than shoplifting. If it was other way around, I wouldn't wonder. But stealing from friends needed planning (he just didn't take only when he had an opportunity, he planned and manipulated to have an opportunity) and he wasn't always able to do it when he wanted. And he also knew the consequences of shoplifting (minimal, just a small fine, you have to literally kill someone to end up jail here especially if you are under 18) and had to have inkling of the consequences of stealing from team mates (huge, got him kicked out of team, had to move out of home, reputation in ruins, huge setback to his career, could had been end of it etc.) His team mates indeed didn't press charges, like asked by their team and me and my husband, not because anyone wanted difficult child to get out of it easy, but because no one wanted to give difficult child an idea that this is some trivial little thing that you get 100 dollars worth of fines for and that is it. We wanted this to be huge thing for him, but our justice system certainly doesn't think so.
  13. Signorina

    Signorina Guest

    I work in retail. We have items stolen constantly. It is an INFURIATING cost of doing business and many police departments are not interested in helping. Unfortunately, the cash nature of our business also means we have been the victim of petty "cashier" money theft as well as higher scale embezzlement. Every retailer I know has experienced it. It's never publicized for fear of attracting thieves! And often, restitution plans are made in lieu of judgment and the few cases we have prosecuted successfully have resulted in slaps on the wrists. So, we go to dozens of loss prevention workshops, work with private detective agencies, the DEA, the Secret Service (they are in charge of forgery) and security companies to try to keep it manageable. This is what I have learned:

    Stealing is most often a crime of opportunity. People steal because they can. Sometimes a good person becomes a thief when opportunity meets desperation but it's usually about opportunity. When they are successful, it emboldens them. They offset this by justifying the theft on the backs of their victims. "he's a jerk"; "she owes me"; "prices have gone up too high"; "I'm a good customer"; etc. When they don't get caught, they get bolder. To the point of actually stealing so much that they DO get caught. Many people think they "were looking to get caught" and that's doubtful. It's usually bc they have been so bold; stolen so much and been successful that think they CAN'T get caught. When we catch an inside thief who has been stealing, the interrogation (by professionals) usually only reveals a very remorseful 60-80% of what they have actually stolen. It's a known "margin of error"; often because the amount is tied up to the persons self esteem. I have literally been brought to my knees by the amounts of money people I liked and trusted (and considered a friend) have stolen.

    My guess is your son steals from his teammates bc he CAN and because he wants money. He justifies it (to his self esteem) based on the difficult relationships he has with them.

    Just in my opinion
  14. Nancy

    Nancy Well-Known Member Staff Member

    You know your son best but I'm not sure a juvenile understands the consequences of shoplifting are less than stealing from friends. Most juveniles start by shoplifting because their friends do it and they see things in a store they want and don't have money. Shoplifting from stores and reselling the stuff to pay off gambling debts takes a lot of effort. I am not sure he thought about the consequences of stealing from his teammates or the effect of the team before he did it.

    I am convinced that once someone starts stealing they dont stop. If you don't have the voice inside you telling you it's wrong then it just progresses and takes on different forms. I doubt whether he stopped at stealing from friends. If he had gambling debts he probably has stolen from all avaialable sources. An addict has no friends, everyone is fair game. Whether it's a drug/alcohol or gambling addiction the addict needs money for his habit and sports team members are no exception. It's no different than the well respected businessman or minister or politician or doctor or athlete or bum in the street. They all need money for their addiction and they steal from wherever they can get it. I've sat in many AA meetings where addicts say just that.

    You were posting at the same time I was Sig and I agree with everythign you said. My difficult child stole from stores because she wanted the merchandise. She stole from family, friends, employers because she needed the money. She stole because she could and when caught it didn't stop her. And yes it infuriates me also, I could never steal anything ever, I couldn't live with myself. But then I have that voice inside me and I am not an addict.

    Last edited: Jun 15, 2012
  15. Malika

    Malika Well-Known Member

    Yes, I really don't know why SuZir's son stole from his classmates and I guess none of us can pronounce on what is a complex area!
    However, I do think there is a psychological component to stealing. Today, I would never steal anything and if given incorrect change in a shop, for example, I go and give it back as soon as I discover the mistake. This is not because I am a "good" person but merely because I know that stealing will bother me, I will regret it, the instant gain is not worth the loss of peace of mind...
    When I was a child, however, I remember two instances of stealing. One was that aged about five or six I used regularly to take a coin from the pile of change that my father would take out at night and leave in a drawer. I accumulated quite a collection and finally told my mother about it; she replaced it. I do not know why I did this. My parents' marriage was very troubled and verbally abusive and would soon end in divorce. Is there a connection? Probably. The second instance I remember was when I was about 9 and I was walking home with a friend from school when she dropped her purse. I saw she did this and she didn't. Instead of giving it back to her, I picked it up and kept it... why? There was some money inside but I didn't spend it. I must have felt bad about it because I told her what I'd done a few days later and gave it back... I remember that she looked at me really oddly and must have thought I was crazy.
    These incidents of stealing now seem odd to me. I wanted to take these things and not tell but why...? This makes me feel - sorry to get all psychological on you - that there really is quite a deep symbolic content to the act of stealing. Just my 20 cents, you know.
  16. SuZir

    SuZir Well-Known Member

    Thank you for information Signorina!

    Do you have information about how permanent habit stealing tends to be? Once a thief, always a thief? Or do people learn from getting caught and stop?

    What I know, my difficult child has been stealing in two separate periods. First when he was 13-15 he shoplifted to appease bullies and to try to bought their friendship. That ended, when these kids didn't demand difficult child to steal any more. He didn't get caught ever, but confessed this one recently. The second period, from which he did get caught, was this stealing from team mates and from home. That happened over period of a few months and ended year and a half ago, when he was caught. That was to finance his compulsive gambling. To my knowledge he hasn't been stealing after that (certainly not from team mates or at home, but about shoplifting I of course can not be sure about.)

    And as you can probably guess, it is something I also worry about. Did he steal only because he 'needed' money or does he do it for the spite or some other reason? I really can't know. He is mostly truly remorseful, not only because getting caught and all the trouble it has caused to him, but also for hurting others. I have to say, that I do like the fact, that he still has to meet and be together with some of his victims in certain sports situations, even play in same national junior teams or be in same development programs. Not getting away from the situation easy and having to meet these people again and again is probably good for him. There has been times he has tried to justify his actions with others being jerks to him, but mostly he has been able to take responsibility and some of the boys have even forgiven him at least partly.
  17. Malika

    Malika Well-Known Member

    Didn't want to hijack your thread, SuZir, but just to say something about the complexity of stealing :) I have no idea why I "stole" as a child. I wonder if your son knows??
  18. DDD

    DDD Well-Known Member

    On "the streets" stealing is rarely looked down upon and often is a source of congratulations. on the other hand taking anything from a friend or the friend's family results in huge disrespect and often exclusion from the group friendship. Ten years ago or so I had a teen difficult child live with us for a week or so. He was attracctive, polite, clean, took out the garbage and brought in groceries with-o being prompted. I just thought he was bubblegum.

    Coincidentally on the last day of his stay with us I got my first "flip phone" and was really tickled to have the new toy.
    Before we pulled out of the garage I noticed my phone was missing. The three of us looked and looked and looked for that phone. I don't know where the difficult child hid it because we went through everything. BUT...he sold it the next day and easy child/difficult child and his pals all eliminated that boy from their inner circle. They all knew he was a thief. They did not know he would steal from "family'. His Father told me he started stealing before daycare. Weird and Sad.

    I assume that is why your son is being ostracized. Sad. DDD
  19. SuZir

    SuZir Well-Known Member

    No hijacking at all. I do understand no one can answer my question for sure, very likely not my son. Because I too think it is very likely even he doesn't know the answer.

    Psychology of the stealing is interesting. For small children (and many children do steal) it is usually pure impulsive thing. "I like that toy my friend has, I take it to my pocket when I leave a play date." Very common scenario among 4 to 7-year-olds. Little older shop lifting candies or coins from home, also common. Adults taking small stuff (pens, few envelopes etc.) from their work places and not even considering it stealing. etc. And somewhere there is a line that makes a difference. But where it is and why some break it? I don't know.
  20. Signorina

    Signorina Guest

    Malika, respectfully, I think there's a big difference in 2 instances of a young child's petty theft and an older teen stealing to finance an addiction with a lack of remorse.

    SuZir, I have no idea about rehabilitation rates. All the seminars we attend are about preventing and recognizing theft (usually by the time we get suspicious its all ready wide scale, ugh)
    And I do not mean to sound cold - but it's usually as simple as people steal because they can and are remorseful because they get caught.

    Now, my sister in law was a gambler and has been attending GA for around 14 years. It was a LONG time before she could have access to money comfortably and she still doesn't have or use credit cards because they are a trigger to gamblers. She stole money from their joint accounts & retirement plans. A big part of her treatment was paying it all back. And she has!

    For years, my brother gave her $5 per day for spending money. (mutually agreed) She's doing great; day by day!

    Can your son attend GA meetings? I remember learning that gambling addiction is difficult because gamblers will always need to use money. It can't be removed from their lives.