Reactive Attachment Disorder: A fathers confession -

Reactive Attachment Disorder: A fathers confession

I met with Dr.  Patti tonight as pretty much everyone else in the Lost and Tired house is sick.  This gave me an opportunity to speak with her about things without any distractions.

The topic was of course,  Gavin.

We discussed Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD)  and I gained some more insight into what Gavin’s behaviors are doing to our family. 

The truth is and Carl,  maybe you can back me up on this,  Gavin is attempting to divide Lizze and myself.  In some cases he is actually succeeding.

That has to change and change immediately.


Dr. Patti explained that this is very common in RAD kids.  Typically, the mother is the target and they do it in such a way that no one else ever witnesses anything. 

That’s exactly what’s happening in our house.

The moment I leave the room,  Gavin says or does something to Lizze that upsets her or pushes her buttons.  The moment I return Gavin acts as though he has non idea why Lizze is upset. 

If you didn’t know better,  you would swear that Lizze is making this up. 

Dr.  Patti said that is exactly how he divides us.  Tension is created between Lizze and myself because she is experiencing behaviors that Gavin is very careful to only allow her to experience.  When I inevitably get involved I’m put in a position that I have to either mediate or take a side. 

Because I don’t always witness what Gavin does, it’s difficult to discipline him for it. 

The other problem is that when I intervene, it makes Lizze appear weak and Gavin exploits that when I’m not around. 

I know how this sounds.  It sounds crazy, right? Tell me about it.  Imagine having to live it. 

A great way to gain a better understanding of what I’m poorly trying to explain, is to watch the movie The Good Son. That will give some perspective.  While the movie is more extreme, you’ll get the point. 

In truth, sometimes it’s really hard for to accept the fact, that this is what Gavin has become.

I’m also guilty of allowing him to drive a wedge between Lizze and I because I want so badly for things to be different. 

Lizze ends up truly paying a price.  This whole thing is destroying her and it absolutely must stop.  Unfortunately, the only way to that is to remove Gavin from the home.  RAD is not something that can be fixed.  In other words, no amount of us trying harder is going to make a bit of difference. He needs intensive, inpatient treatment to even have a chance.

I came home from today’s appointment and pulled Lizze aside.  I told her that I’m absolutely and completely behind her.  I told her that basically,  I have her back. 

I can’t even begin to explain how difficult this is for me personally.  I remember the Gavin that was, before everything went dark. I found some old pictures of him and I together.  I miss my son, however, he’s gone and no amount of anything is going to bring him back.

I know this all sounds crazy and maybe it makes me a bad person.  However, it very similar to losing get someone to alzheimers.  While the person may look the same on the outside,  the person you once knew on the inside is gone and gone forever. 

That’s the only way I can relate this to you. 

I don’t know how we are going to manage.  I do know that Lizze and I cannot be divided.  I feel like,  to this point I’ve failed her by handling this the way I have,  but I’m in a relatively impossible position that I would wish on anyone.

However, by educating myself, I’ve learned more about not only Gavin but myself as well.

Lizze and I are a team and I’m now better prepared to be there for her in this impossibly difficult situation. 

This was posted via WordPress for Android, courtesy of Samsung’s Galaxy S III. Please forgive any typos. I do know how to spell but auto-correct hate me.

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It is very difficult, what you are describing. We have something like this in my family, in multiple generations. It is painful — and dangerous — to be on the receiving end of this, even after you have accepted it intellectually and know where it comes from and why. You have to be smart enough to react with your brain sometimes, not with your heart. Dealing with a kid, you are smarter than they are and should be able to see the game they are playing.

I think it's great you met alone with Dr. Patti. You probably all need a lot of coaching to get you through this. It may be even more important that you and Lizze have someone to guide you than that the kids do, frankly.

Onyx Panthyr

autiesmama said it wonderfully. The “good” thing about this whole situation is that you know and understand what’s going on. At least you and Lizze are able to recognize what Gavin is doing. Not that it makes it any easier, but as the saying goes, knowledge is power. Stand together, stand strong. You’re very lucky to have each other. 🙂


Rob, I've seen many similarities between Gavin's behaviors and goals and my mother's behaviors and goals as her dementia progressed.  I *so* get that part–even if the family roles are different.  Early on, my mother would often "work" the already tense relationship between my brother and my father (I am in a different time zone, and she wasn't as effective by phone). For a long time, my job was to contact her docs/therapists after an appointment to sort between truth and lies for them.  I often said, "this will sound crazy, but…"
I am sorry, partly because I do know that feeling, and partly because I imagine it must be tenfold to feel it for your child. 
When you talk about what Gavin has become, please remember that there's a whole lot more nature involved in what he is than there is  nurture–to put it mildly.   He did not "become" this person under your watch, as a result of your parenting–I know you know that in your head, but I know that a parent's heart is often not so logical. He had all this in him before you even knew his name. This is a the progression of a disorder for which you are not responsible. He is what he is, and you are handling the "is."  It really is all you can do.  I say that like you do that one small thing, but I know it is all-encompassing for you. 
You did not do this. Lizze did not do this.  Tell her that I know she's not crazy, would you?
Again, I am truly sorry.
Regards, Leslie


@autiesmama thank you. This does make us both feel crazy. Words can’t describe. Thank you.


I totally understand!  My husband and I have been very fortunate that we have always put on a united front for our daughter who had been trying to do this with us.    Where she is at the therapist is going to start a therapy with her (and me for the first session) called Lifespan Integration.  It may be something to look at and see if the therapist thinks it might be helpful for Gavin.


@CassandraS thank you. I’ll look into that. 🙂

Mary Franzen Costell

You've hidden your "failure" of Lizzie well. I've never felt thAt you were anything but supportive of her, although I'm sure you guys have your share of disagreements, especially with the stress you are under. I'm glad you got to visit Dr. Patti alone. I hope you can find someone to talk with about your feelings more often. Like alcoholism and Alzheimer's, mental illness is truly a family disease. It can "get" you if you don't take care of yourself. Thoughts and prayers for you and yours.


@Mary Franzen Costello thank you for your support. 🙂


RAD kids are divide and conquer experts.  Splitting is their specialty.  Next sub-specialty is lying.  Causes great confusion and doubt, mostly about your own sanity.  It is very sad to hear that there is nothing you can do to help the situation, but that is true.  Sad, depressing, and true.Luck and love to you, and hope that the wraparound people can move a little faster.


@KathyKohlBuehler thank you very much. Not many people understand.

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