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Caught in the cheating trap

I never thought I would be dealing with this issue in my life. I know there are a lot of different ways and opportunities to cheat. I started listing all the things I didn't do to feel better about myself.

I have never cheated on someone when I was going out with him/her. I have never cheated on a friend by revealing things about them. I have never cheated in a game even if I knew I could get away with it. I have never done things unfairly and have never been labeled a cheater.

But, I cheat in school. I know I am a cheater when I ask to see someone else's homework. I get by with this by telling my "friend" I just want to check my answers. The truth is I am too lazy to do the homework. It bores me, so instead of wasting my time doing it, I lie to my friends and steal their work.

I cheat when I go online and pull up other people's papers and copy them. Sometimes, I am sneaky and I only use some of it so no one will know. Other times I mix several papers and call it my own. Either way I know I didn't do the work.

I cheat on tests. I find ways to look at other people's tests by the ways I position my desk or I just have a cheat sheet. I have perfected the latter technique by refining methods of getting the information I will need out so I can see it without being seen.

I don't want to use my time studying material I will never use again. That's why I cheat on tests. I tell myself I am not hurting the person I am cheating from as long as they don't know I am doing it. I am always very cool about how I see their tests.

I know I am just sliding by and I also know sooner or later I will be busted for this behavior. Until I get caught, I HAVE to keep cheating. I am required to make good grades in order to participate in sporting and social events at my school.

I HAVE to make the grades to be able to be accepted into a college of my choice and to keep my driving privileges.

I HAVE to keep my grades up so I can keep my part time job. I am driven to get the grades my parents expect of me, and I want to prove to them that I am smart and I can do it. I continue to cheat because I am so far behind, trying to learn the material seems impossible.

At this point, there seems to be no other way for me to pass.

I also HAVE to keep my "smart without studying" reputation. Cheating for me is not an option anymore. It has become an absolute necessity.

I have tried rationalizing why I cheat but there are really no good excuses for my behavior.

I cheat because now I can't stop. I cheat to save face. I cheat because I can't catch up. I cheat because I am lazy. I hate myself for starting this pattern because now I see NO way out. If I confess that I have cheated, the consequences will be horrible. If I just stop, I will fail. If I keep cheating I will get caught and then everyone will know.

How can I tell someone, save face and catch up? I do need help with this and I know when I tell someone this will make me more accountable. I will tell an adult outside of school. I will ask for their help before I get into bigger trouble.

I will start by confessing to myself: I am a cheater and I will get help with this today.

IT! (Private thoughts of the Indomitable Teen) is written by Cecilia Tucker under the editorial guidance of a panel of teenagers (in exchange for pizza and volunteer hours). Tucker is a licensed marriage and family therapist at the Counseling Center for New Direction in Seminole. Comments are welcome. You may write c/o: IT!, Xpress, the Times, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731, or e-mail Floridiansptimes.com. If you are interested in being on the teen editorial panel, please contact Cecilia Tucker at revceciliamsn.com.

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