‘I cleaned out his life savings and left’
When her period arrived unannounced, then-13-year-old Lisa had no idea what to do.
She was stuck in a toxic home where her parents seemed to care more about drugs than raising a child.
There were no pads or tampons under the sink - and a few days later, even the toilet paper had run out.
So Lisa found a plastic bag under the sink and headed to the local shop.
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"I found the proper aisle, went up to the box of tampons, looked around nervously until I felt no one was watching, and quickly shoved it into my purse," the US woman first wrote on Love What Matters.
"I paced around the shop a bit after that, pretending to be interested in whatever items I was looking at until I felt I could safely walk out.
"My chest was pounding. My mouth was dry. My cheeks felt hot. But, more importantly, I wouldn't be bleeding onto my underwear anymore."
Grabbing that box of tampons didn't do much to fix Lisa's horrific home life.
In fact, within minutes of arriving home that day, her mum discovered the tampons and confiscated them.
She didn't care that they were stolen - she simply thought her daughter was too young to be using them.
Instead, Lisa spent the next few days, showering multiple times a day to stop the blood from soaking her clothes.
"The distress I felt from stealing that day was enough for me to not to steal for a while," she said.
"But, sure enough, when things never got any better at home, I found myself back at the shop with the same feelings of paranoia.
"The same guilt and constant looking over my shoulder. The same walking out of the shop, bag in hand, and no receipt."
"I felt on top of the world."
But soon Lisa found herself stealing things she didn't need.
Instead of tampons, food and painkillers, she arrived home with make-up, nail polish and jewellery.
She was lifting all the things her mum had never bought her as a little girl.
"In no time at all, I was taking things from friends and family," she said.
"Nothing else in my life compared to the pure feeling of freedom and control it gave me.
"Whenever I walked through those doors unscathed, I felt on top of the world.
"My body literally felt lighter, but also so full of adrenaline.
"As much as I hated the stealing part, the paranoia, the fear, my success always cancelled out those negative feelings."
Lisa might have stopped stealing if it hadn't been the reaction she got from other people.
Friends realised that she was taking things and began asking her to steal for them.
"I felt so happy and accomplished when I could acquire something on their behalf," she said.
" I was never given attention at home for any of my achievements, so their praise meant everything to me.
"I craved my mum's attention. I needed it … but it never came.
"Stealing made me feel like I had finally done something right in my life. Something worthy of celebration."
As the years went by, Lisa's stealing only became more outlandish.
She took "expensive gadgets, kitchen appliances outfits, jewellery and shoes".
But it was the things she took from the people she cared about the most that truly broke her.
"Over time, all of my relationships became shallow and temporary," she said.
"I had to get out the second they became suspicious of me.
"So, I got out and never looked back. I deeply hated my life.
"I tried to stop stealing numerous times, but the addiction always won the battle."
But everything changed when Lisa met him - the love of her life, the person she imagined growing old with.
For the first time, she was given genuine affection, love and attention.
"I promised myself that I'd never take anything from him and I kept that promise for a while," she said.
But then the unexpected happened which changed everything.
"I discovered my mother had suddenly died of a heroin overdose," she said
"Without thinking of the consequences, my addiction spoke.
"I went into his wallet, stole his debit card, cleared out all of his savings, bought myself a plane ticket, and flew all the way across the country by myself."
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To make matters worse, Lisa knew that he had been saving the money she stole for a Christmas present for his sister, who had been diagnosed with cancer.
But the fact that he had been putting money aside for a year to afford her an expensive bracelet was no match for her addiction.
"The second I got on that plane, I remember closing my eyes and just knowing that I could never speak to him again," she said.
"That he would never forgive me.
"He knew of my habit and I had promised him I would never take a thing from him.
"Before even trying to talk it out, I blocked him and did just that. I didn't speak to him."
It's now been six years since Lisa has stolen anything - that last theft was enough to make her realise she needed to change.
She apologised to everyone she took something from and is still in the process of paying them all back.
"It's been a long, ugly journey, but I am only now starting to truly realise the complexity of my addiction," she said.
"That it runs deeper than just wanting to steal.
"That I felt I HAD to steal to cope with my wounds. Part of me is glad that I became a thief.
"While I feel bad about all I've done, I don't regret my journey. It's a part of me and my mistakes have made me who I am today."
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- Madeline Cox is a news producer and writer for Kidspot, Australia's leading parenting site
- This story originally appeared on Kidspot.com.au and is reproduced here with permission