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"I was the child of addicts. And I have one question about Peaches Geldof."

Peaches Geldof, her husband Thomas Cohen and their children Astala, 2, and Phaedra, 11 months.

By ROSIE WATERLAND

There has been a lot of talk in the last few days about the inquest into the death of Peaches Geldof. After it was revealed that she had died of a heroin overdose – her eleven-month-old son left alone with her dead body and dozens of syringes for 17 hours – a lot of people had a lot to say.

There are those who have spoken of the tragedy surrounding her death, calling her a ‘fallen angel’ who lost her fight with the disease of addiction. There are others who called bullshit on that line of discourse, and who insisted there should be no sympathy for a ‘junkie’ who was selfish enough to put her child at that kind of risk.

The debate in the media about Peaches seems to have boiled down to one about addicts and choice: Just how much blame can we place on someone who was struggling with addiction? And when you’ve quantified that blame, how much sympathy, if any, does Peaches deserve?

There are valid arguments on both sides, and plenty of people have been willing to make them.

But you know what? I don’t care.

I don’t care about how much sympathy Peaches deserves. I don’t care about her struggle as an addict and what impact that had on her ability to make sound decisions.

I don’t care, because I think it’s the wrong thing for us to be focussing on. And if we’re going to continue to be morbidly fascinated and saddened by the circumstances surrounding her death, we might as well be asking the right questions.

As somebody who once was that 11-month-old, as somebody who spent her childhood being left alone with addicted and extremely mentally disturbed parents, I can tell you what question I want to ask:

Regardless of how hard she was trying to get clean, why the hell was Peaches left alone with her children?

Astala and Phaedra.

It was revealed at the inquest that her husband, Thomas Cohen, had been aware that Peaches had been back on heroin since February. He knew that there was heroin and needles in the house. He knew that she was trying, but failing, to stop taking drugs.

And yet, he went to his parents’ house for the weekend and left her alone with their 11-month-old son.

Given her addiction, it’s unlikely that was the first time Peaches had been left alone with one or both of her young children while under the influence.

So where were all the other adults in those boys’ lives? Where were the adults saying, “You know what, we can debate about the legitimacy of addiction later; right now we just need to GET THOSE KIDS OUT OF THE DAMN HOUSE.” Why weren’t any adults, particularly her husband, stepping in and refusing to let Peaches care for those boys on her own?

Forget Peaches’ ability to make decisions – an addict can’t be expected to make sound parenting choices. Why the hell aren’t we talking about the choices made by everybody else in those little boys’ lives?

Looking back on my own childhood, I struggle to understand how my sisters and I were constantly left alone with one or both of our parents. I’ve written before about my frustration with the system continuing to send us back into a traumatic environment. But outside of government intervention, I also can’t comprehend the choices made by the responsible adults in our lives who were meant to be there for us.

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Yes, they took us in when things became particularly bad at home, but that level of care was always a last resort; always in response to some kind of horrific incident that couldn’t be ignored. But in between those times, there were plenty of other situations that shouldn’t have been ignored but were.

Both my parents were addicts.

Rosie.

My dad was an alcoholic who had been diagnosed with schizophrenia but never treated for it. He was irrational, sometimes violent, and always, always doing something to make my older sister and I feel petrified and unsafe. I would often become so overwhelmed by anxiety while in his care that I would vomit.

And yet my sister and I were left alone with him.

My mum, who unlike my dad is still alive, was not much better. She is an alcoholic with bipolar disorder. If she wasn’t getting violently drunk and having strange men over, she was threatening to kill herself and constantly leaving my sisters and me to fend for ourselves.

And yet, my sisters and I were left alone with her.

WHERE THE HELL WAS EVERYBODY?

I’ll tell you where they were: They were trying to give my parents the benefit of the doubt. They were debating my parents’ rights to be parents in the context of their addiction.

And in the mean time, my sisters and I suffered.

Act for Kids, a fantastic  organisation that aims to prevent and treat child abuse and neglect, says that the impact on children who are left to languish in traumatic environments can be severe:

The effects of child abuse and neglect can be significant and lead to lifelong problems. It can impact a child’s brain development, how they feel and think about themselves, how successful they are at school, even their physical development and skills. In the long term it can lead to drug and alcohol abuse, mental illness, difficulty developing and maintaining good relationships, unemployment and all sorts of social disadvantage – all due to their childhood experiences, and not their fault.

In my adult years, I have struggled with anxiety, problems with emotional regulation and severe trust issues. My older sister has been in extremely abusive relationships and my younger sister is just now starting to understand the emotional impact our childhood continues to have on her life. We all have PTSD.

Peaches with Astala.

So excuse me if I don’t give a toss about the debate surrounding Peaches and addiction. Everyone can – and this is the internet, so you can be damn sure they will – have their own opinion concerning how much responsibility she bears and how much sympathy she deserves.

But those aren’t the opinions that should matter right now. It doesn’t matter what her level of choice was; she shouldn’t have been alone with her children. Astala, 2, and Phaedra, 11 months, deserved better than to be left alone with a woman who was struggling not to take heroin.

Whether you believe that it’s a disease or not, I can tell you that addiction took my father and it’s getting dangerously close to taking my mother. So I know, better than most, that it’s imperative that we support addicts with empathy and resources, and give them every possible opportunity to overcome their addiction.

But parenting is not a right. Having your kids with you while you try to fight your addiction is not a right. And surely, surely, it’s obvious that irreparable damage is being done to children at the hands of addict parents?

It should be obvious, but frustratingly, I don’t think it is. If it were, I wouldn’t be asking the question I’ve been grappling with for days:

Why the hell was Peaches Geldof left alone with her 11-month-old son?

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