Wednesday 27 July 2016

Peaches' life may have been privileged, but addiction doesn't discriminate

Published 24/07/2014 | 02:30

A young Peaches with her mother Paula Yates who died in 2000.
A young Peaches with her mother Paula Yates who died in 2000.

The tragic death of Peaches Geldof should teach us that there is no such thing as a stereotypical drug addict. The mass outpouring of sympathy that was prompted by the death of Peaches quickly turned to scorn when it was revealed that she had died of a drug overdose. The people, who had lavished praise on her for turning her life around, from debauched and destructive to virtuous and responsible, were scathing.

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Having lost her own mother to a heroin overdose when she was just 11 and spoken of the lifelong shadow that had been cast by her death, how could she stick a needle in her vein when her infant sons were in the next room?

Not only had she projected an image of herself as a reformed earth mother with a "perfect life", she marketed herself as that.

She gave interviews and wrote columns about how her marriage and the birth of her sons had "saved" her from a lifestyle of drugs, parties and casual sex.

Now we know that when she returned home from TV studios, where she spoke eloquently about attachment parenting or her idyllic rural life, she was shooting up heroin, injecting it into her thumb or her elbow so the track marks wouldn't be visible.

In her first column, for 'Mother and Baby' magazine, she wrote: "I had the perfect life – two beautiful babies who loved me more than anything. It was, and is, bliss."

By the time it was published, she was dead, found slumped on her bed with the drugs that had killed her hidden in a sweet box beside her. She was just 25.

But anyone who doesn't feel sympathy for Peaches Geldof, because of the manner of her death, clearly doesn't understand addiction.

They don't understand that you don't need to be homeless, or poor or living on the margins to have an addiction. They don't know how seductive and enslaving a drug habit can be and how hard it is to escape.

They don't understand the heroic battle that addicts have to wage every day, fighting a nihilistic urge to succumb to the intoxicating lure of a fix although they know that they are risking everything – their job, their family, their happiness, their life – to do so.

Geldof had fought that battle for at least two years. Her inquest yesterday heard that she had received "considerable treatment and counselling" and, for a while, it was working.

She was reformed, she was redeemed and, for a time, she wasn't living a lie when she spoke of her blissfully boring life.

But then, something snapped. Perhaps the pressure of trying to live up to the persona that she had created became too much.

Her struggle to maintain a veneer of perfection, when she knew the kind of venom she would subjected to if her drug use became public, must have been extremely stressful.

Whatever happened, it is clear that her internal demons were not silenced by her wealth, success or beauty.

Maybe that is where our indignant sanctimony stems from. Most of us struggle through life trying to make ends meet, certain that more money, or less weight or a new relationship will make everything immeasurably better. In contrast, Geldof seemed to have everything so easy. But the uncomfortable message from her sad death is that satisfaction with one's life is not a function of any of these material things.

Some of us use alcohol, some of us gamble, some of us use sex, but she had the misfortune to get hooked on one of the most insidious, dangerous and addictive drugs that exists.

The fact that she injected herself with the poison that ultimately killed her doesn't make her death any less tragic. The disease she had was terminal.

Irish Independent

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