SMMGP - Substance Misuse Management Good Practice

Substance Misuse Management Good Practice

Supporting good practice in drug and alcohol treatment

Post-its from Practice:
Alex lost his fight but left with no fear (May 2010)

Last week we attended Alex's funeral (see DDN 15.3.10). He had died peacefully a week earlier in the company of his long-term partner and her mother. Hospital staff had been very supportive, immediately responding to my suggestion of a self-controlled heroin pump, recommended after I spent time with Alex in obvious pain awaiting analgesia.

During my last visit to see him a few days before he died, we talked, laughed and cried. He knew he didn't have long and he was at peace. He was happy with the choices he had made and his only regret was that he wouldn't get to see his two sons grow up. It was a privilege to know him and he touched all who came close to him.

The funeral was truly a reflection on Alex's life. On arrival I was hugged by his partner who introduced me to her mother, who was beside herself with grief. She told me of her love for Alex and explained how he had cared for her during a recent illness even though she had recognised that he was getting ill.

Alex's mother was a complete contrast to him. She had not seen him for years until his final illness. She was solemn but critical of Alex and his life. She had come with her ex-husband, other two sons and one daughter. None of them had seen Alex for years, not even during his last illness.

Upon entering the church, his blood family seated themselves on one side and all others congregated on the other side, which was packed. His blood family had over-ridden others' plans for the funeral and insisted on a traditional Catholic funeral, conducted by a priest who on one occasion even forgot Alex's name. The service seemed to me to have nothing to do with Alex the person.

But I was able to celebrate his life in my own way surrounded by his real family and friends. Amongst the crowd, perhaps because of my own prejudice, I noticed three elderly grieving Caribbean women, one of whom I knew. I enquired how they knew Alex's and they proudly announced that he had been their wonderful neighbour.

I hope Alex's family got to see the truth behind the real Alex on the day of his funeral and witness the love that surrounded him. I hope they know or will realise that Alex was so much more than "a drug user". I hope that they, and any others who may hold a prejudiced view of what "a drug user" is, will think twice before judging a person who uses drugs. Alex, in his leaving message to us, wrote:

"Don't grieve for me, for now I'm free. I'm following the path God has chosen for me. If my parting has left a void then fill it with remembered joys..."

I will grieve but remember the joys.

- Dr Chris Ford
GP Lonsdale and Clinical Lead for SMMGP