Northern Ireland news

Call for support for those battling addictions after death of 42-year-old mother-of-two

Sophie Ewings pictured as a young mother with her two daughters, Holly and Erin, who are now aged 16 and 21
Marie Louise McConville

THE daughter of a north Belfast woman who died after a 10-year battle with alcoholism has called for “more readily available support” for those struggling with addictions.

Erin Ewings said her mother Sophie (42) had “tried so hard” to beat her addiction but “services were not always there” to help her.

The mother of two daughters was found dead on the floor of her kitchen at her Skegoneill home on Sunday morning by her parents.

Doctors said Ms Ewings’s heart gave out as a result of 10 years of alcohol abuse. The cause of her death was recorded as alcohol syndrome.

On Thursday mourners gathered in north Belfast for Requiem Mass for Ms Ewings.

Speaking to The Irish News, 21-year-old Erin Ewings said her “very kind” mother had lost everything in her life as a result of her addiction.

“It took away her whole personality,” she said.

“It was like a brick wall. She lived inside and couldn’t get out. It stole mum from everyone, from her side of the family and my side of the family. She wasn’t there at all.

“She lost everything – her job, her family, her house, her driving licence.”

Erin said her mother developed her addiction 10 years ago and had struggled to beat it over the last decade.

“She tried so hard,” she said.

“She had been in rehab about 20 times over the 10 years, twice a year. She really, really just wanted to be
better.”

However, Erin said support services for those with addictions in Northern Ireland are “very limited and hard to access”.

“You have to wait a year to see a psychiatrist but if you’re an alcoholic, they won’t see you because you drink. That’s a genuine issue we kept hitting. She would feel guilty and bad and get depressed because she was an alcoholic,” she said.

Sophie Ewings, who died suddenly aged 42, pictured before her addiction took hold

“They couldn’t diagnose her for mental illness because she couldn’t stay sober long enough. It was just a vicious cycle.”

Erin said the fact that services and support are “very limited and hard to access”, can leave people feeling
“inadequate”.

“We feel like we have let her down,” she said.

“I think that there needs to be more readily available support. If she wanted to go to rehab, she had to go far away from her family and there are no long-term ones. There should be a service where somebody from the community will come out and check on you [when you leave rehab].

“If it went that step further, that would make the biggest difference.”

Erin said her mother was “the kind of person who could have been friends with anybody”.

“She was so lovely,” she said.

“She was really bubbly. She was very kind. She really did love us and she really did love her family. We are just devastated. It’s a tragic end to a tragic story when things didn’t have to be that way.

“The way she would describe it was that she was just full of fear and sadness all the time. It was as if her body made her feel she really needed that drink. It drove her away from everything and everyone she loved. She spent a lot of time alone struggling.

“It was like the woman that she was when she died was not our mum.”

A spokesman for Belfast Health and Social Care Trust said: “We offer our sympathies to family of Sophie at this difficult time.

“Whilst we do not comment on individual cases, the trust continues to deliver addiction services and work in partnership with other agencies to enable individuals to access appropriate support.”

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