The Shulman Center for Compulsive Theft & Spending

            May 2009 e-Newsletter

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Terrence Daryl Shulman

The economy, war, an uptick in gun violence, missing children, and now Swine Flu. It's hard to avoid the news around us. How do we maintain our sanity in the midst of what is? I'm still figuring that out myself. We each have our own ways--or better have them if we hope to stay sane. I recently had an epiphany of sorts when I recently was in Las Vegas and had to develop a "vaccination plan" to ward of any potential "insanity-flu-like" symptoms. As they say in New York: "if you can make it there, you can make it anywhere." Well, maybe Vegas gets a git of a bum rap, but maybe they should replace their tag-line "what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas" with "if you can stay sane there, you can stay sane anywhere."

How do you create sanity in the midst of what is (insane)? Of course, there's the old sayings "wherever you go there you are" and "nothing is good or bad, only thinking makes it so."

It was a 5-day trip with my wife Tina. The trip was part business/part pleasure as I'd be attending and speaking at a conference on addictions... yeah, funny, I know. I hadn't been to Vegas in 20 years; my wife hadn't been there in 30. A lot has changed since then. If not for the conference, it's not the kind of place I'd typically visit. Apparently, it's a common venue for addiction and mental health conferences. I always found that somewhat ironic. I've never been into gambling; in fact, I'm quite adverse to it. Sure, I've bought an occasional lottery ticket but that's about it. I've always joked that I'm too cheap to even risk losing a penny! Yet, you'd never guess there was a recession going on by the crowds of people there, gambling and spending money at restaurants, at shows, etc.

I remember my last trip to Vegas--I was in my early 20's and I went with my Dad, stepmother and two younger brothers. We stayed at Circus Circus hotel on the old strip. My only vivid memory of that trip was becoming frustrated that I couldn't pull my Dad, my step-Mom and my middle brother away from the slot machines. I think on the final day--when I worried we'd be late to catch our plane back to Detroit--I threw a huge plastic cup of quarters in the air in disgust and abruptly walked away. That was it for me. No hurry to go back.

But here I was returning to Sin City: capital of quick weddings and quick losses. Gambling! Booze! Sex! Shopping! Don't get me wrong, I like excitement and adventure but I get easily frazzled by over-stimulation. My wife's almost worse. Our mission was to have a good time at the conference, enjoy a show or two, have a few good meals, get some sun, admire the architecture, and get out with our dignity and pocketbooks in tact. In other words, we needed to find some "oases of sanity in the midst of what is."

It helped, for starters, that most of my first 3 days in Vegas revolved around attending my conference. It was a conference on process--or behavioral addictions. I presented on compulsive shopping and spending. Other issues covered were eating disorders, gambling, love/sex, video addiction, and co-dependency. What a nice group of people--mostly counselors--from across the U.S. There were 575 attendees. I made some great connections and my presentation was well-attended and received. As a bonus, I got to meet many of the pioneers of recovery such as Patrick Carnes, Claudia Black, Michael Cartwright, and Randee McGraw.

It was a strange experience coming off the elevator from our hotel room and having to walk through a maze of gambling in the Palms Hotel lobby to the other elevators to the second floor to the conference. It felt like The Twilight Zone episode where the little girl falls through a portal in her bedroom into another dimension. The contrast between what was going on in the lobby and what was going on in the conference could not have been more stark. And, yet, I noticed my judgment was fairly muted. Live and let live. I have my preferences.

My wife and I caught a show--Cirque du Soleil's "Mystere"--Wednesday night and walked around town a bit. We discovered a central oasis of sanity in our hotel's health club and spa. We went there every morning to work out, take a sauna/steam, sit in the Jacuzzi, and then shower. Sometimes we'd go more than once a day. I attended a 7am 12-Step meeting for conference attendees on Thursday and Friday mornings. What a treat to be in a circle of 20-30 mental health professionals with longer term recovery. Apparently, I was the only recovering shoplifter. When I introduced myself--"Hi, I'm Terry, and I'm a recovering shoplifter/kleptomaniac"--a few people laughed and reached comically for their car keys and wallets. They thought I was joking. I told them in a light-hearted way: "no, I'm serious. I've been in recovery from this since 1990."

Besides the conference, my wife and I took in some good meals and had two nice dinners at Olives in The Bellagio Hotel and The Eiffel Tower Restaurant at Paris! Hotel. The scenery at night was quite impressive. We could just appreciate the glitz of it all from a birds-eye view, far away from the grit and grime and the pervasive frenzy behind the walls in the casinos.

We walked around a lot and admired the casino buildings and decorations, noting the different energy of each and the different clientele. It was as if we were crew members of Star Trek exploring these strange earth forms called gamblers and each hotel was a different colony or planet. There were the high-stakes poker players--serious and stoic; the craps and roulette players--exuberant as in "let it ride"; there were the bar dwellers--hooked up to TV or Keno; and there were the ubiquitous slots players, young to old, men and women, even grandmothers and the wheel-chair bound--passive and pathetic. I swear I saw a double-amputee hooked up to an oxygen tank, a cigarette in one hand and the other yanking a one-armed bandit.

As Friday night arrived and the conference ended, the energy and atmosphere became more intense. As the weekend crowd poured in--younger, louder, wilder--our search for oases also became more intense. We hit the health club before dinner and dined off the strip at a little Thai restaurant. We literally were the only customers there. It was good food and good service. We had to ask the waitress to turn off the radio which was playing mostly commercials anyway. Wasn't there any silence in this town? By the time we got back to our hotel room, we were bushed.

On Saturday morning, we hit the health club again early. Afterwards, we prepared to head out for breakfast--my wife had found a health food market and bakery off the strip. We were taking the elevator down from our room on the 19th floor. It was 9am. The elevator stopped at the 10th floor or so. The doors opened and the sound of a loud, very loud young female voice broke through and pinned us against the wall. Four young gals in their early 20's walked in. I instinctively put up my hands and said, as politely as possible: "Whoa, whoa, whoa. Can you tone it down a notch?" Well, you'd have thought I'd insulted the Pope. The young woman who was about to hold us hostage in a closed metal box looked at me incredulously and said loudly: "This is Vegas, baby! You don't come here to be quiet! I hope you aren't going to the pool, 'cuz that's where we're going and we're going to be loud!" I paused for a moment and considered whether to say anything; after all, the elevator had already started to descend and I estimated we'd be sprung for freedom in less than 10 seconds. Still, I couldn't help myself: "We're in an elevator," I retorted, "not the pool area. And, no, we're not going to the pool--it's plenty loud there just with the music blaring." As the doors opened, she snickered at me "how rude" as she and her three musketettes pranced out toward the lobby. I turned to my wife--silent and never making waves as usual. We both felt like such "old fogies."

Our mission for the day was to drive an hour to Valley of Fire State Park. What an experience! Just the ride out there helped us clear our minds. Open highway. The desert, barren but beautiful. The Park was nestled in the mountains, a long meandering road the only pathway in. No stores, no gas stations, no nothing for miles and miles. Just what the doctor ordered. There were other visitors but not too many. You could stop your car and get out and walk the trails past the red rock formations and other wonders of nature. And the quiet. You're in a valley and all you can hear is the quiet. And the wind, occasionally blowing. The sun felt so good on our skin, the sand in between our toes. What a contrast to the City. Things came to a standstill here. It took a while to let it all sink in. We spent about 2-3 hours there and then headed back for our final night in Vegas.

We got back, went to the health club again, and headed out to The Eiffel Tower Restaurant with a view of the city and the water fountain show across the street in front of the Bellagio Hotel. It was surreal. We slept like babies that night and had a leisurely morning. Then we drove about 2 hours south to meet my brother half-way--he lives near L.A. We met in Baker, CA at The Mad Greek Restaurant and ate outdoors. We had nearly 4 hours to just talk and catch up and shoot the breeze. No hurry, no drama, just the three of us. Another oasis. My brother is off to London today for 2 and a half weeks. I wish him a safe trip.

My wife and I got to the Las Vegas airport about 3 hours before our flight. We looked to find our gate before heading off to dinner and we passed a large circle of people huddled together, many of them crying. We looked out the window and saw several ambulances near the back of a parked plane. My wife asked someone what had happened. The gentleman, seeming a bit shaken himself, said that their plane's engines stopped working 20 minutes into their flight and they had to coast back to the airport for an emergency landing. My wife and I looked at each other; tears welled up in her eyes. I tried to process the information. I overheard another man tell someone "I'm a tough guy but this was the scariest thing I've ever gone through."

As we headed off to dinner, we were quiet and continued the silence through much of our meal. I felt very drowsy all of the sudden and slept before and during our red-eye flight home. We arrived safely in Detroit at 5am Monday morning. The whole trip now seemed like a whirlwind. I was smart enough not to schedule any clients or much work on Monday but there's always a lot of catching up to do. I'm still getting acclimated to the time change and the old routine of my life. I'm reminded: when I think my life is insane, it could be so much worse. And, yet, it's still important to always create oases of sanity in the midst of what is.

LAWSUIT UPDATE: On advice of counsel, I've been told to limit my discussion at this time on the progress of the lawsuit. Suffice to say, it continues on. Your continued support is appreciated. We look forward to victory soon.


HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY: Mother's Day is almost here: Sunday May 10th. Often referred to as "the mother of all Hallmark holidays" why not choose to make this Mother's Day more meaningful for you? If you miss your mother because she is no longer alive--or is distant in some way for you--find a way to honor that. If you have or have had a difficult or downright negative relationship with your mother, consider unfolding another layer of healing work toward forgiveness, peace, reconciliation. If you are a mother yourself and find yourself conflicted in some way about celebrating yourself and celebrating your own mother, explore how you might find a healthy balance. If you have a healthy relationship with your mother but feel you wish to express your love in some way beyond the routine card and flowers, imagine a new way through word or deed to do so.

A word of caution: Mother's Day is a time of year which precipitates many relapses for recovering people. The holiday often brings up past or current pain and can lead to arguments. Our relationships with our mothers are potent and complex. We need to be mindful of this. Many mothers themselves often feel mixed emotions about the holiday, often feeling either underappreciated or unworthy of the attention, love, or praise. Be gentle, be aware, be safe.

A shout out to my own mother! My mother, Madeline Jacobs, recently turned 70 and is coming back to the Detroit area today from her annual 5-month winter hiatus to Florida with my stepdad Jim. My wife and I had a wonderful birthday visit with them in March. I look forward to having my mother nearby again for a while--we live just 15 minutes away from each other. My Mom and my wife get along famously. For my Mom, Tina's like the daughter she never had; for Tina, my Mom is like the Mom she never had. For me, I can say that I wouldn't be where I am in life without my Mom. She has always been my biggest cheerleader and supporter. I never stop wanting to make my Mom proud of me; yet, I also appreciate how she lives her own life and keeps busy--she's pretty careful not to "smother" as some mothers (and others) are known to do. My Mom is incredibly family-oriented: she is the hub of several sisters and is the most likely to coordinate holiday and Thanksgiving dinners, birthdays, and the like. She is also incredibly human. Sometimes she forgets things, sometimes she stresses out, sometimes she worries too much, sometimes she is sensitive to criticism.

In the last several years, I have really noticed how similar I am to my mother in so many ways: family and traditions are also important to me; I often take on the organizer and activator role in bringing people together; I sometimes move fast, think fast, have trouble listening, and talk a lot; I still am prone to guilty and worry but continue to work on this; I have diverse interests; I get impatient, at times, with weakness--in myself and others; I'm more likely to dwell on hurts or to have a thin skin around perceived criticisms; I'm likely to speak out about what bothers me--maybe to a fault--rather than let it "roll off my back." It's a mixed bag. I, for one, appreciate that I'm more able to see my own mother not just in the hero role but also in the human role. I can laugh at her and with her. And she can take it--I hope! I look forward to celebrating our triumphs and our quirks. I know I've got a few of my own! Some I got from my Mom, some from my Dad, and the rest--who knows!

Thanks Mom! I love you and appreciate you. Happy Mother's day--every day!


                                                  WE APPRECIATE YOUR SUPPORT!!!

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The Shulman Center
Terrence Daryl Shulman, JD,LMSW
P.O. Box 250008
Franklin, Michigan 48025

(248) 358-8508 for a free consulation!

What We've Been Up To:

APRIL 2009:

April 5th--Mr. Shulman participated in the local Southfield, Michigan Local Authors Book Fair at The Southfield Public Library promoting his most recent book "Bought Out and $pent! Recovery from Compulsive $hopping and $pending"

April 15-16--Mr. Shulman presented on compulsive shopping & spending at The National Association of Social Workers--Michigan Chapter annual conference in Lansing, MI.

April 22-24--Mr. Shulman presented on compulsive shopping & spending at the Foundations Recovery Network's Process Addictions Conference in Las Vegas, NV.

MAY 2009 and BEYOND...

Mr. Shulman created an online continuing education course on compulsive shopping and spending based on his book and Power Point presentation through the American Psychotherapy Association. This course is available for purchase by APA members and non-members alike.

Mr. Shulman was interviewed by phone for a CNN piece on how shoplifting has increased due to the downturn economy.

Mr. Shulman was interviewed for an article in Forbes Magazine about compulsive shopping and spending.

Mr. Shulman was interviewed for a CW Network is documentary about teens and compulsive shopping.

Mr. Shulman will be featured in a segment on shoplifting addiction in the MSNBC series "Theft in America" to air in mid-2009.

Mr. Shulman was interviewed for an article on compulsive shopping and spending in Glamour magazine--article to be published this Spring.

October 7-9--Mr. Shulman may be presenting on compulsive shopping and spending at The California Society for Addiction Medicine Conference in San Francisco, CA.

October 14-16--Mr. Shulman will be presenting on compulisve theft and spending at The American Psychotherapy Associations Annual Conference in Las Vegas, NV.

October 23 and 25--Mr. Shulman will be presenting on compulsive theft and spending at 2 day-long seminars presented by The Jewish Family Service in the metro-Detroit area.

Mr. Shulman continues to assist on two U.K. projects on shoplifting addiction--one with the BBC and another with Channel 4.

Mr. Shulman is consulting on the development of a major motion picture tentatively called "The Rush" in which the lead character is addicted to shoplifting and stealing.

Mr. Shulman submitted a chapter on employee theft for a 2009 U.K. book entitled "Risky Business."

Mr. Shulman continues to assist the Kingman, Arizona court system with his court-ordered homestudy program for retail fraud offenders. The program is based on material from his book "Something for Nothing: Shoplifting Addiction and Recovery" (2003).

Mr. Shulman continues to work with A & E TV's "Intervention" show on a shoplifting addiction segment.

Contact The Shulman Center

Terrence Shulman, JD,LMSW,ACSW,CAAC
P.O. Box 250008
Franklin, Michigan 48025


Call (248) 358-8508 for a free consulation!

Related sites by Terrence Shulman:
The Shulman Center 
Cleptomaniacs and Shoplifters Anonymous

Something For Nothing
Biting The Hand That Feeds
Bought Out and $pent

Products for Purchase--SALE!

Mr. Shulman's 75 Minute DVD Power Point Presentation on Employee Theft at Livonia, Michigan Financial Manager's Conference 10/19/06. $75.00

Mr. Shulman's 75 Minute DVD Power Point Presentation on Employee Theft at Louisville, Kentucky Business in Industry Conference 9/19/07. $75.00

Mr. Shulman's two books "Something for Nothing: Shoplifting Addiction & Recovery" and "Biting The Hand That Feeds: The Employee Theft Epidemic... New Perspectives, New Solutions" are availabe for $25.00 each (includes shipping/handling) or both for $45.00 (includes shipping/handling).

Mr. Shulman's 90 minute DVD Power Point presentation for young people: "Theft and Dishonesty Awareness Program." $75.00

Mr. Shulman's 33 minute psycho-educational DVD: "The Disease of Something for Nothing: Shoplifting and Employee Theft." $50.00

First International Conference on Theft Addictions & Disorders 4 DVD set (13 Hours). Recorded 10/05. $125.00.

Second International Conference on Compulsive Theft & Spending 2 DVD set (6 Hours). Recorded 9/08. $100.00.

Click here to purchase

E-mail Mr. Shulman:

or Call (248) 358-8508


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