OK, at wit’s end again. How am I supposed to deal with a child with Reactive Attachment Disorder? And, of course, how am I supposed to deal with an adult child with Reactive Attachment Disorder? Just as we transition from grade to grade during the school years, we now transition from program to program to help him in the adult years and I’m beginning to believe that we need to transition from therapy model to therapy model to continue.
I knew how to parent…or at least had things to try when he was a child. There were simply things that a parent could not allow a child to do, but now he is an adult and the line has gotten fuzzy. Today, I’ve hit a new low and have sought out help from a pamphlet titled, “So You Love An Alcoholic.” Since nothing else had worked, I thought I’d give this a try. I ‘ve decided to customize it for Reactive Attachment Disorder. Again, these ideas are not my own, so credit goes to Al-Anon Family Group Headquarters, Inc.
Reactive Attachment Disorder is an illness. The first thing for you to acknowledge, believe, accept is that children who have reactive attachment disorder suffer from a real sickness – a sickness which affects all those close to them. The AMA and many authorities the world over declare the Reactive attachment sufferer has an illness over which he or she has no control. It is not caused by weakness of will, immorality or a desire to hurt others. Once you have accepted the idea that Reactive Attachment Disorder is a sickness form which compulsive children and those who care about them can find release, you will have no reason to be ashamed of it – no reason to fear it.
Learn the Facts. Wipe your mental slate clean of everything you think you know about it. Then apply yourself to a learning program. You can get valuable first-hand knowledge about RAD by attending an open support meeting. Don’t hesitate because you feel you are a stranger; anyone is welcome who is interested in the problem of RAD. Talk to members after the meeting; you can discuss your difficulties with the people you meet there.
Help Yourself Now. Don’t wait to seek help Anyone whose family has suffered from the effects of RAD knows the constant emotional strains and pressures and needs help in relieving these. Nothing will give you greater relief than the understanding and warm-hearted help you will find in a Support Group meeting. There you will, as one member put it, “learn to live again.” The members are compassionate, well-informed and have first-hand knowledge of problems just like yours because they have them too! Conversations with people who share your problems will convince you emotionally – as your investigations may have convinced you intellectually – that RAD is a disease, not a sin. Sharing this knowledge can help you begin your own recovery.
Some Important “Don’ts”
Don’t treat the sufferer like a child; you wouldn’t if he or she were suffering from some other disease. Don’t check up on them to see how much they are offending; Don’t search for offenses; Don’t put temptations away, they can always find ways to get more; Don’t nag them about their issues; Don’t preach, reproach, scold or enter into quarrels.
If you can bring yourself to avoid these things, you’ll be well on the way to a more comfortable frame of mind. All these Don’ts have good sound reasons that grew out of many people’s experience. RADs suffer from feelings of guilt beyond anything the non-RAD can imagine. Reminding them of failures, neglect of family and friends and social errors is all wasted effort. It only makes the situation worse.
The “if you loved me” approach is likewise futile. Remember the RAD is compulsive in nature and cannot be controlled by willpower. Equally useless are promises, coaxing, arguments and threats. Sometimes a crisis can convince the RAD of the need for help- the loss of a job, an accident or an arrest. Steel yourself against coddling and overprotectiveness at such a time. The crisis may be necessary for recovery. Do nothing to prevent such a crisis from happening. The suffering you are trying to ease by such actions may be the very thing needed to bring the RAD to a realization of the seriousness of the situation – literally a blessing in disguise.
Remember, the whole family may have slips and set-backs Don’t take them seriously. Believe that a firm foundation for recovery has been laid. If you feel that either of you has made mistakes, learn from them and forget them. Let go of the disappointments and setbacks and push forward!
The way ahead is not always easy, but it can be full of rich rewards in a satisfying life for you and those you love.
Oh if I could only heed this advice. Today, it’s a challenge! In a final attempt to find peace in my day, I turned to today’s date in the One Day At A Time In Al-Anon book. “Does the voice of God have a chance to be heard over my angry shouting? What is the purpose of letting myself fly apart in reckless tantrums? To relieve my pent-up feelings? Today’s Reminder: I cannot punish anyone without punishing myself. The release of my tensions, even if it seems justified, leaves dregs of bitterness behind. Unless I have deliberately decided that my relationship has no further value in my life, I would do well to consider the long-range benefits of quiet acceptance in times of stress.”
Ouch. Just Ouch.
“How shall you punish those whose remorse is already greater than their misdeeds?”
–Kahlil Gibran: The Prophet