• Nadja Eriksson

I lost my life-savings to a psychopath. Here's what I learned

Updated: Aug 7, 2020

I’m standing right outside his front door, nervously holding a humble see-through plastic bag in my hands. It contains over $2000 in cash. It is everything I’ve got, and I’m about to give it all away to a man I’m never going to see again.

But I don’t know that yet.

Right now, I’m convinced that Lenard is a friend, that I know and trust him, and that he would do the same for me.

I met him two months prior, on a cold day in early March

I’m sitting in an Italian café when he comes over and starts to engage me in a conversation. It’s mostly him who does the talking, but his irresistible charm quickly pulls me in. Even if I wanted to, I could not leave. He’s neither young nor attractive, but somehow, his presence is magnetic.

He goes on and on about himself: how he’d won Olympic gold as a swimmer in his early 20s, how he’s lived with Peruvian shamans who’d initiated him into their ancient rituals, and how he’s now working as a philanthropist, raising money to help charities supporting children in need.

Lenard pulls out a newspaper clipping featuring an article about him donating a large sum of money to a hospital in Delhi, India, to prove his point. I’m intrigued. What a resume.

Lenny is radiant, confident, and highly persuasive.

Even though somewhere deep inside, the alarm bells are going off to warn me that something is not quite right, the louder part of my mind convinces me to stay.

We meet again and develop an unusual friendship. Next, he introduces me to his girlfriend Jenny, a young biology student, and his friend Hannah, a cute Austrian actress, who I connect with instantly. They’re sweet and innocent women in their early twenties, just like me. If they trusted Lenny, so could I.

Soon after, I receive an email from Hannah. She says that Lenny is in trouble: he’s raised money to buy an expensive new ventilator for that children’s hospital in India, but he has to put his money in as well.

But it’s still not enough to cover everything.

If I could help out?

He’s too proud to ask, she writes, but of course, he’ll pay me back once he’s raised another round of funding.

I think about it for a moment and decide to support him

I feel elevated by the thought of being helpful. He’d do the same for me, I reason. Plus, I don’t need the money right now. It feels good to give it to those who need it most.

So on a windy afternoon in late April, I take the subway to Lenny’s place in the suburbs, stuff the little bundle of 50s and 20s into his mailbox and leave, feeling ecstatic over my good deed.

From now on, I will not see Lenard again. Ever. He will never call or email me again, especially not from the fake account he’d opened under Hannah’s name without her consent.

The police tell me that Lenard has used me as well as five other girls. I wasn’t the first, and I wouldn’t be the last woman he’s sucked dry -- emotionally, spiritually, and financially -- without a hint of remorse.

I sink into a black hole of depression, desperate over how naive and trusting I’ve been

Fooled by the textbook definition of a psychopath. Compulsive liar, zero empathy, shamelessly manipulating people while having recurring problems with the law.

It takes a 6-week-long pilgrimage across Spain to regain my sanity.

The hardest part is to forgive myself. I could have left at any moment. I’ve chosen this. Why did I ignore all the red flags?

It was not until I had forgiven Lenard and myself that I could see the hidden blessing.

After all, this is a story about faith, and it’s not over yet

Here’s what happened next.

Six months before this madness with Lenny began, my 86-year-old uncle Robert died. He was a war hero from WWII, with one eye blind from a hand grenade splinter and his left arm half-paralyzed and covered with deep white scars. Nevertheless, he was always happy, singing vulgar drinking songs and speaking his mind without ever considering the consequences.

Uncle Robert was a wealthy man, kind-hearted and generous

As a little girl, I’d visit his home and snack on the Camembert he and his wife kept under a cheese bell in the living room. A rare delicacy for someone who grew up in GDR.

Once he’s gone, I miss him. His humor, quirkiness, and unapologetic authenticity made him fun to be around. But there’s also some relief. During his final year, dementia was eating away at his mind until he could hardly remember who or where he was.

He’d call a hundred times during the day, forgetting that he’d called five minutes earlier.

Every time, he’d disrupt the internet connection. (Remember when the internet was still connected to your landline?) He’d yell into the receiver because he was half-deaf and assumed that nobody could hear him if he didn’t scream.

I was not the only one affected by his desperate need for human contact. Now that his wife was gone, uncle Robert felt lonely. Suddenly, distant relatives showed up out of nowhere, and a new lover half his age was keeping him busy.

Soon, this 40-something woman had an apartment full of new furniture, and Robert’s remote second cousin Walter had remodeled his house. Everybody wanted a piece of the cake that is my uncle’s brimful bank account.

When Robert dies, I have no expectations whatsoever when it comes to an inheritance

I’m convinced that Walter will try to claim everything that’s left of his fortune. Besides, I have other problems to deal with.

Lenny problems.

I had forgotten about the situation until the day I get a phone call from the family lawyer. He wants to make an appointment to read out Uncle Roberts’s last will.

Still depressed and anxious after everything that’s happened, I can hardly believe it when I hear the news.

Robert has left me exactly six times the amount that I had “loaned” Lenard.

Coincidence? I don’t think so.

I believe that God makes no mistakes and that we get back what we send out.

The universe adores acts of generosity, especially when they’re given without expectations. By offering Lenny all my money without expecting an immediate return, I was demonstrating unconditional faith in the universe.

Of course, you could argue that I would have gotten the inheritance any way

But can you be totally sure? I can’t. I have no idea what would have happened if I’d done anything differently. Every decision opens up for new possibilities, and we cannot plan for everything in life. This is where faith comes in.

Faith is the absolute certainty that nothing exists outside of God’s plan for awakening. It means standing in the eye of the hurricane and being completely calm.

With faith, you’re relying on a strength far greater than your own. You surrender everything to your higher power, knowing that things will be taken care of. You become invincible.

When you invite Spirit in, She will use every situation (even those created by the ego) as an opportunity to wake you up. Every situation becomes an opportunity for healing, forgiveness, and a change in perception.

Faith is a vital ingredient on your journey to spiritual surrender

When you let go of control, fear can easily creep back in. The ego will try to convince you that you need to get your white-knuckled grip back onto the steering wheel of your life.

When you first surrender your life -- including your finances -- over to God, your ride may feel a bit bumpy. Instead of trying to regain control, say to yourself, “God’s got this. I am guided every step of the way. The universe has my back. There is nothing to fear.”

When I handed Lenard my entire life-savings at age 20, I was fearless. I completely trusted life to take care of me. One way or another, I knew I would be fine.

I was joyful when I parted with the money. It felt good to help and be generous

I had full faith that more money would come when I needed it. I had no expectations of an outcome; I surrendered everything to the universe. As a result, the miracle could happen effortlessly. Soon after, I was blessed with an unexpected cash injection that allowed me to move to England and study English Literature for the next two years.

Now, this does not mean that you should donate all your money to charity. Nor should you blindly hand it over to a psychopath. Please don’t. I needed to learn that lesson for my personal growth. You will have other obstacles that can teach you what you need to learn.

Cultivating faith in the universe is, first and foremost, an inside job.

Use your self-talk to your own benefit. Change your inner dialogue to one that cultivates more faith than fear by focusing on the best possible outcome you can imagine in any situation.

Let’s use the example of Corona since it is so much on everyone’s mind right now. Instead of focusing on the problem, actively look for the solutions. Ask yourself, “What good can come out of this crisis?” Affirm to yourself, “I don’t really know what anything is for, but I am ready, willing, and able to be part of the solution.”

This mindset can apply to any situation, globally or personally, financially or emotionally

As Chris Prentiss writes in his book Zen and the Art of Happiness, “Whatever happens, affirm to yourself that ‘This is the best thing that could possibly happen to me.’” Use this mantra with everything you experience, and you’ll begin to understand that things don’t happen to you but for you.

Since you don’t know what anything is for until much later, why not hold a vision of the highest outcome you can imagine in any situation? This way, you’re opening yourself up to opportunities that you might otherwise hold off in your life.

Strengthen your faith like a muscle, and see what miracles the universe has in store for you. It may be an inheritance, a new job offer, or the opportunity to start your own business.

The best part? You don’t even have to lose everything to a psychopath first.