My sister recommended the book, The Sociopath Next Door by Martha Stout. She’s reading it because she thinks it might explain her ex-husband, with whom she’s involved in a horrendous custody battle.
As you may know, I’m somewhat morbidly fascinated with sociopaths. So of course, I’ve started reading it – and it’s so compelling that it will require an entire blog post on its own. This post, however, is an update on how it’s going with my sister and the custody battle. Note: It’s very long, but there’s a lot to say.
Update On My Sister
Since her youngest son (who is 14) was released from the lock-down unit of the children’s psychiatric hospital where he spent a couple of months, she hasn’t been able to see him. Her husband took him home with him, and that was that. Even though she has a court order stating that she has 50% custody. Even though she goes to her ex-husband’s house and knocks on the door every time it’s her turn for custody, and then has to call the sheriff’s office when no one answers or when they do answer and someone shuts the door on her – she still hasn’t seen him. It’s been about two months now.
Her ex drops his son off at a daily outpatient treatment center, but he doesn’t take him to the therapy appointments he needs with the psychiatrist recommended by the children’s hospital. She was referred to this particular psychiatrist, who specializes in traumatized, addicted children, through the children’s hospital her son was just released from. Since she has been unable to bring her son to the appointments, she has been using them herself, talking with the psychiatrist about how it feels to be a parent with children suffering from a severe case of Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS). So one day, when she was sitting on the couch, she got really frustrated. She said:
“It’s one thing to sit here and talk about what’s going on – but that isn’t really helping the situation. I want to do something. I need someone to help me do something! What are you going to help me to do?”
To her surprise, the psychiatrist stood up and said, “Alright, let’s go.”
Her: “What? Where?”
Him: “It’s your day for custody, isn’t it? Let’s go do something about it. I’ll go with you to his house and I’ll videotape it while you knock on the door and have to call the sheriff to come and get your sons. This stuff needs to be documented – otherwise no one would believe it’s really going on.”
So this man, this wonderful Good-Will-Hunting-style psychiatrist, went over to my sister’s ex-husband’s house with her and hid in the bushes with her iPhone, videotaping the whole scene: my sister knocking on the door, the door being opened, then closed, by her ex-husband’s wife, the sheriff coming, the sheriff being told that her son wasn’t here, that nobody really knew where he was. The sheriff leaving. My sister, defeated once again, leaving without her son. (Never mind the middle son, who for now she has had to not think about too often because he is an extreme case of PAS and will not even speak to her.)
At least it was all caught on tape. Evidence that can be used in court, right?
I’ve said this in other posts but just in case you’re new to this story, apparently the family court where my sister lives is in a city that’s bankrupt. It’s threadbare – there aren’t even enough police to go after the burglars, let alone make sure a teenaged boy’s mom gets her son on custody days. The whole family court system is depleted and threadbare, too. It’s also probably corrupt. And the mediator on my sister’s case is actually paid for by my sister’s ex-husband, was chosen by his attorney, so you can imagine how messed up that is.
My sister showed me a two-inch stack of text messages her ex has sent her since 2010 (the mediator had told her she needed to collect more evidence that he was abusive, so she began collecting his awful text messages, and getting them notarized. She did this for two years.). As soon as she submitted the stack of horrendous texts to the court as evidence, her ex immediately stopped texting her. Which was good because every time her iPhone vibrated, she said, it stressed her out. The good thing about these text messages is that when you read all of them in order, from start to finish, you can see a frighteningly clear timeline – a pattern of systematic harrassment. It’s like he’s still fixated on her, in a sick and twisted way, even though he’s remarried – and he’s seeking any attention he can get from her, which at this point is all extremely negative attention.
Here are just two examples of his text messages to her, messages she was getting around the clock, 24/7, and reasons why she was diagnosed with PTSD:
“Face it, you are a pathetic LOSER. NOBODY likes you – NOBODY loves you. You will die ALONE and LAUGHED AT! Your PARENTS hated you, your SISTER hates you, the people you WORK WITH hate you, I hate you, YOUR OWN SONS hate you. Your own sons NEVER want to see you again. Just get out of their lives. You are a pathetic LOSER who nobody wants to be around and you will die ALONE, LOSER!”
“We all look forward to the day of your funeral, all the LAUGHTER: your sons will be laughing, I will be jumping for joy, we’re all gonna laugh at you. My wife will be laughing at you.”
It’s important to tell you that throughout all of these text messages, my sister maintained her decorum. Not once did she engage with him, or reply with anything but rational, balanced texts, which are also documented and notarized for submission to the court. My sister is not an emotional nutcase, in fact she is just the opposite – she knows that in order to win full-custody of her sons that she has to be consistent, and rational. And that is what she is. Her texts were typically, “Where is my son?” or “You have missed the appointment with our son’s psychiatrist. Where is he?” or, “Where is my son? You say he is at the movies but you don’t know which movie – how can you not know which movie he is at if he’s under your custody, and you dropped him off?” etc.
One time when it was her turn for custody he told her through texting that he’d forgotten it was her day and that her son was in Mendocino. But actually, she found out, he had taken him to a game in New York City. This was just after he had run away from a “free” detox center his father had put him in, in downtown Oakland. My sister said the place was really frightening, for a fourteen-year old child. There were serious drug addicts, and big scary adults, criminals. It was no place for a child. So he ran away.
While her son was in this rehab, my sister had tried to get them to give her son his antidepressants but since her husband had admitted him and had not written her name down as co-parent on the intake sheet, they wouldn’t accept the medications and give them to her son. Which is why he probably ran away – and ended up back at his father’s house after a gut-wrenching two day search. She thinks her ex knew where he was the whole time, and was orchestrating this situation for attention.
During this weird search, my sister’s ex seem to become re-vitalized. If you read his text messages, suddenly he becomes the hero, calling the National Missing Children’s Center hotline and putting up MISSING posters all over Oakland. His mood seems – merry. Texting my sister as he’s doing this – almost in a manic way. I’m not a psychiatrist but in my unprofessional opinion I think her ex-husband suffers from a form of Munchausen’s by Proxy, but instead of seeking attention by making his children sick, he’s doing it by facilitating their addictions. And even scarier: he’s a physician. Why would he want to make his children addicted and get attention for it? I’m not sure, but I do know that my sister and I lost our parents to alcoholism, and if you were my sister’s ex-husband, and were mentally unbalanced, and wanted to think up a way to “get back at her” – enabling her children’s alcoholism would be a sure-fire way to do it. I don’t know if that’s what happened, I’m just grasping at straws here because this whole thing is so beyond absurd.
I believe my ex brother-in-law is a Narcissistic sociopath. A couple of years ago when his oldest son was still speaking to him, he took his son and his son’s friend out to lunch and made a scary comment. He said, “I could just sic my dogs on your mom’s cat right now and kill him.”
My sister’s son found his beloved cat dead on their lawn the following day. It had been mauled by a dog. He immediately called his father, and said, “I’m looking at the cat right now, Dad.”
His father said: “I know, he’s dead. My dog got him.”
I think she filed a police report but there is no way to prove that he did this, other than the word of his oldest son, who was at the time on his way into rehab, or his teenaged friend who had heard the threat. He has keyed my sister’s car, causing $900 worth of damage. She says he drives by her house at night in his car. I’m pretty scared for her. When we were at the beach together this summer, I asked her the question I’ve been dying to ask her: “Didn’t you know any of this stuff when you married him?”
She told me she had found a letter he’d written to her after their first date that she’d forgotten about, and she showed me this letter, which she has submitted to the court as proof of his own acknowledgment of mental illness (bipolar manic depression). In the letter, he goes on for pages about how before he met her he was on a wild manic ride, that he had struggled with severe depression – he goes on and on, describing his mental illness, how he thought she would be good for him. She forgot about the letter (crazy, but true – I think she was smitten with him, a tall, dark and handsome med school student), and only remembered it on her wedding day – as they were driving away in his new red sports car, which the wedding party had decorated with shaving cream and soda cans. He growled. She said he became furious that they had messed up his car, so he pulled it over to the side of the road in a fury (right after his wedding!) to wipe it off. She said she got the strangest feeling, sitting there in her wedding dress watching her groom clean his sports car, and she noticed that while the shaving cream hadn’t damaged the car at all – the way he was scrubbing the car so with so much force was actually scratching the paint.
She said she had one thought in her head: Uh-oh.
When their oldest son got out of rehab where he got off drugs, and got sober, he realized that his father was probably a sociopath. His father rejected him, probably because he had broken the credo of dysfunctional loyalty that exists within alcoholic families: he had tried to get well. He went to go live full-time with my sister. Since then he has thrived under her care, and says that when he lived with his father he was afraid of losing his love if he had a relationship with his mother. When he lived with his father he was a high school drop out, my sister had to go rescue him from a drug-den, he was an addict, and in a terrible state, unrecognizable for the beautiful, kind and intelligent person he really is. Under my sister’s care, that kid has been sober for almost two years, he attends and is actively involved in AA, sponsors people, has found the right balance of medication to be on for his depression, and regularly attends therapy. He has friends, earned his high school diploma, and now…he is enrolled in college. He is still traumatized, and doesn’t talk much – but considering everything, he’s doing really well.
Her other two sons live with their father. They have dropped out of high school, with his covert encouragement. Before they dropped out, he moved them around from school to school, making sure they had no friends, that they hung around with low-end losers, users, drunks and drop-outs. The middle son is currently enrolled in an air conditioning and repair class. The youngest, a drop out. The youngest is an addict and advanced alcoholic, the middle one I’m not so sure about – I know he smokes pot, and they both smoke cigarettes. If you were a judge, which parent would you say the kids should live with?
The mediator told my sister (she is out of money now, by the way, and it takes a lot of money to win in court, apparently) that she needed to step up her attempts to get her children. So she has been going by there every time it’s her turn and calling the sheriff, even though it breaks her heart to embarrass her sons like that – she needs to show the court that she is trying to get them when it’s her time, that she cares and wants them with her. (But can you imagine how hard that is? How awful she feels for her sons? Not to mention, how humiliating it is for herself, to have to call the police to get your children?)
This Whole Thing Is a Mother’s Worst, Worst Nightmare
She went by the out-patient program her youngest son is in to try and talk to him, but when she got there the administration would not let her see him because her name is not on the intake form. She spoke at length to the director of the program and tried to explain to him about her ex-husband, that this is a case of systematic PAS. She asked him to call the children’s hospital and speak to them; she told him that her ex is supposed to bring their son to his therapy appointments with the psychiatrist but doesn’t – she suggested they call and speak to that doctor, too. Although the director said he would look into it, so far nothing has come of it, and she has been unable to see her own child. Also, apparently, when a child turns 12 in California, they can elect to sign a legal document that bars their parents from viewing their medical records. His father had him sign this document so my sister has no idea how many times he’s been admitted to the hospital for passing out from drinking, or for attempting suicide. She had gotten her hands on one hospital record from an ER, where she learned that her husband had brought him in with a gash on his wrist. When she asked her ex about it, he said it was just a cut, no big deal. On a suicidal child’s wrist. Yeah, right.
I think she is very strong. If it were me, I would either be in prison for committing serious bodily harm on that man, or I would be in a straightjacket for having completely lost my marbles. But she is just doing as much as she can to prepare for the custody case, and breathing in and out, in and out.
She called me yesterday and left a quick, crest-fallen message: “The mediator is going to recommend to the court that their father gets full custody.”
My heart sank. I am shocked. But nothing really surprises me, at this point. So much stuff has already happened to her that isn’t fair, that should not be happening to a loving, single mother in this world, whose whole life is her children.
I will call her back today and get more information – but my husband pointed out that if you were a mediator or a judge and you asked two teenaged boys who they wanted to be with – their mom or their dad – and they both said adamantly they wanted to live with their father, even if their mom presents evidence that the dad is a jerk and that the kids might be suffering from PAS, what are you going to recommend? These boys are 14 and 17, and say they want to be with their father, who is, after all, a respected physician. And so far, it looks like that’s what is happening.
Sigh. I just can’t believe it.
I will keep you posted.
- How to Prepare for a Drug Intervention For Your Teen
- Alcoholics Anonymous: A Message to Teenagers
- AA’s 20 Questions: Are You An Alcoholic?
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