Editor’s Note: Sarah Strudwick, based in the UK, is author of “Dark Souls — Healing and recovering from toxic relationships.”
By Sarah Strudwick
It has been nearly four years since I sold my house as a result of what happened with the man I call “Oliver” in my book. Occasionally I still get the odd email from readers who tell me how much the book has helped them.
At the time of selling our family home I wasn’t sure whether it would be possible to have a stable financial future ever again. With a pile of debts looming and two properties that were literally falling apart I certainly didn’t know what my future would hold.
Like most people, I’ve fallen down before but it certainly wasn’t at the hands of a sociopath!
Super at scrimping
During the last four years I’ve remained totally single. I had a couple of dates, but nothing really worth talking about. A few of those showed so many red flags I never got past the first date. These past few years have been really hard work, including working crazy hours, getting up at 6 a.m. to decorate two very run down properties and spending every spare penny on renovations and getting my children through college.
I have become what can only be described as a “super scrimper” over the last few years. My 17-year-old son has complained so many times about us buying all the reduced items in the supermarket. We have downsized completely. I worked through Xmas and New Year’s Eve, but my children have been fantastic.
Almost debt free
I’ve gone from being totally in debt, and having two properties that wouldn’t even make the mortgage payments. I’m nearing the last hurdle and have just come to an agreement with my creditors which means at next week’s closing, I clear the remainder of my debts, and at the end of March I shall be finally debt free!
I now have hope, and a future, and will be able to sell some assets and finally be free both emotionally and financially.
It hasn’t been without problems. I felt some additional heartache when my ex-sociopath’s new partner decided to contact me last year. She emailed and called me out of the blue. Of course everything I told her fell on deaf ears.
He decided to choose someone young enough to be his daughter and has had two children with her. One of her pregnancies was while we were still together.
I think in all honesty the hardest part was seeing a photograph of him taken in his very rich mother’s family house with his new wife and his four children (two from her and two from the wife he had also cheated on). He had what can only be described as a smug smirk on his face.
It was one of the few times I re-contacted my therapist friend who reminded me that his “happy and smug” look was all a facade. It would only be a matter of time before he slipped up and went back to his old ways again. I wondered how she felt knowing all the things he had done.
What I’ve learned
So what have I learned these past few years? First that I am strong and extremely capable. I have the stamina of many women half my age despite having what is described as chronic long term illness, which has remained in remission even in the most difficult times.
I’m a hard worker and it feels absolutely great to know that all of the work I’ve done, no matter how hard it has been, it’s my own doing, and that I didn’t have to rely on other people in order to get back on track. I can never repay the amount of support I have received from friends and professionals.
Money certainly doesn’t buy happiness and it is through being a super scrimper I’ve learned to enjoy the simple things in life.
My long term plans were always to move away from the UK and go and live and work abroad. It had always been my dream long before I met Oliver, but it now looks like the dream is likely to become a reality — although it hasn’t quite turned out how I expected!
A humanitarian trip to Gaza in July really helped me to understand the meaning of poverty and abuse. If I have left a bit of my heart anywhere over the last few years, it is sitting in Gaza with all the people there right now waiting for me go back and teach acupuncture next year. It won’t earn me any money but that isn’t what motivates me to do things any more. I’d originally planned to move to Thailand before I met him because I love being by the sea. Looks like the beach I might be sitting on at the end of the year is just going to be somewhere else.
There’s an expression that if you have a dream and you focus on it enough, you will get it. But, it is often the figuring out “how” that sometimes leaves us confused as to which is the best way to facilitate it. I never thought that in order to fulfill this dream it would involve losing almost everything I’ve ever worked for. Not for a moment did I believe I would have the strength of character and stamina to do what I’ve done over the last couple of years.
Life does go on
I’ve learned to trust in myself and intuition without hesitation and I’ve learned that being single and happy is far more important than ever having a dysfunctional relationship again.
For anyone reading this who is at the beginning stages of realizing what they are dealing with or believes that there is no life after a sociopath, have heart. Put ALL the energy you did in to figuring out why they are so crazy and invest it in YOURSELF, including good counseling. Learn to trust your intuition, work hard, focus on your dreams and you will be rewarded tenfold.
Here’s to a fantastic 2014. I sincerely wish the same to every single one of you.