I was eight years old when I accidentally walked in on my mum injecting heroin in the kitchen. I'll never forget the confused look on her face - the warm embrace of the opiates blunted any acute feelings shame and panic, leaving her with an ugly, dumbfounded grimace. Luckily, this episode was the turning point in both our lives; she knew that she needed to find help and enter rehab, otherwise she'd either OD or I'd be taken away from her. Sadly, not everyone is blessed with the same foresight.
Without knowing what kind of parent Peaches Geldof was it's really hard to comment on the latest revelations about her death without sounding like a sanctimonious hack, but in my experience of growing up with a junkie for a mother, I'd like to make two points: 1: Being addicted to heroin does not necessarily mean you're a bad mother and 2: They fuck you up your mum and dad (to paraphrase Philip Larkin).
I can safely say that as a child, I never, ever felt neglected, even when my mother was a heavy user. One of my earliest memories is that of mum, strung-out on heroin and wearing knee-high black leather boots, kicking a hole in the stained-glass window of our hallway - something must have pissed her off that day! Yes it was scary but I knew no harm would come to me, it never did. And looking at that force of nature raging there on the stairs, I realised that I felt protected - as if this banshee would ever let anyone hurt me! It was the late 70 and drugs, prostitution and overdoses were commonplace but to be honest, I've never been happier in my life.
Perhaps my mother massively overcompensated due to the guilt, but all I remember was a happy, spoilt childhood with lots and lots of love. She kept her addiction well hidden from me - all I knew was that she had to take medicine to make her feel better. We were a single-parent family, so how she ever managed to hold down a full-time job whilst looking after a young child and maintaining a heroin habit was a mystery - perhaps the drugs were really bloody good?
At the same time, mum was playing roulette for years and was lucky enough not to have taken a bad hit - plenty of her friends did just that and didn't survive. Who knows where I'd be now if at 10 years old my mum had OD'd at our kitchen table? Who's to say I wouldn't have found solace in the arms of smack? History repeats itself all too often. Which leads me on to my next point...
My mother's mother tragically died giving birth to her, and she also had to have her first child (my half-sister) adopted after accidently getting pregnant by an older married man who wanted nothing to do with either my mother or the baby. Living in London in the late 60s and early 70s meant my mum moved in certain bohemian circles and pretty soon after giving away her baby, she'd discovered the nullifying and numbing effects of heroin, which she used to kill those feelings of loss. Her addiction lasted on and off for about seven years.
I'm almost certain Peaches' mother Paula loved her children deeply but addicts can be incredibly selfish people and I imagine she would have felt hugely neglected at times - Paula was a wild personality and reportedly became incredibly sad and reckless when her partner (and equally tortured soul) Michael Hutchence died. This coupled with Paula's early death would perhaps explain her dabbling with drugs to help numb those feelings of hurt and pain - heroin lets you temporarily escape from all your worries, as if you're floating in a bubble.
As little regard as I have for people who are 'famous for being famous' like Peaches almost certainly was, the whole episode is still a bloody waste.
Robin Sherwood has written a book about his strange life and his manuscript is now with a leading publisher. You can read extracts from it here.
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