Ellen - Vierka photocropI was raised in a strict Catholic family and my childhood was spent going to school, church and working on our small farm. When I was 16 I went to my very first disco and fell madly in love with a charming boy. But as my parents forbade me from seeing him again, that meeting was our first and last, until I finished school and started working as a teacher.

With my new freedom I started dating the boy from the disco and the crazy love I felt was as strong as ever. We married, much to my family’s dismay, and soon after I began to understand why.

My rose coloured glasses faded to clear and those traits I had previously seen as roguish charm, turned out to be nothing more than aggression and vulgarity. Instead of being a happy drinker who made me laugh, an angry, violent alcoholic appeared. After our son was born his hostility increased so I divorced him and created my own life, working, studying and performing as a lead singer in a successful music group.

But after eight years he reappeared, sober and full of good intentions and my initial attraction to him resurfaced. My guard fell and I allowed him back in. All was well at first; he started a business and we had four more children together. But a new addiction was growing inside him: gambling. The gambling reignited the drinking and before I knew it, the children and I were starving while he was stealing money from his business, drinking it away at the pub. Ultimately the business he had worked so hard to build bankrupted and when I caught him trying to sell my property behind my back it was the last straw. I left, this time for good, bought a new apartment and moved in with my mother and my boys.

After years in an environment that was bad for my children I wanted to make up for the poverty, abuse and trauma. The guilt I felt led me to overcompensate by allowing them freedom, being lax with discipline and showering them with gifts. I worked two jobs to fund my children’s comfort and new lifestyle.

During this time we were hit with a series of health shocks: the doctors diagnosed my third son with learning difficulties, my fourth son with epilepsy and my mother with Alzheimer‘s. While caring for my mum and investing time helping my intellectually challenged son, I took my eyes off my other children.

They started to misbehave and as they grew older their behaviour worsened to the point where they were recognised local delinquents; selling drugs, damaging property, getting into violent altercations. I tried to set them on the right path, spoke to them about the risks and potential consequences of their actions and even took them to a live-in facility for drug addicted children so they could see what lay ahead if they didn’t change.

But nothing I did worked. In the end my four boys chose to live with their father who had since moved into a caravan he shares with his new young wife and their three young children.

I’ve had to come to terms with the fact that my four boys have a long way to go, and there’s a possibility that their lives will never be what I had hoped for them. I feel responsible for exposing them to an environment that was destructive and set a bad example, and that in my desire to make up for the bad times, I then indulged them and allowed them too much freedom.

But I’ve learned that I can’t live the rest of my life being burdened by guilt and regret. I did the best I could with the knowledge I had at the time. Had I known better, maybe I could have changed their future, maybe not. It is something I will never know and there is no point in wondering ‘what if’.

I’ve turned to focus on the good I have in my life and I am here with open arms should my sons decide to embrace good values and live as law-abiding citizens. But I had to draw a line and I won’t tolerate violence and verbal abuse in my home any more. My house is now peaceful and happy, my third son still lives with me and my new partner is a kind, honest man.

I am optimistic and I believe that from now on, things will be good. I’ve begun singing and performing again and I’m enjoying life. I’ve also learned that in hard times, it is only good friends that will hold you up, and there has been no better friend than my mother, who has lived through it all with me.

Vierka, Slovakia