Harris Wittels’s Mom Speaks Out: “The Stigma Associated with Addiction Must Be Obliterated”

harris-podcastThe Huffington Post published a beautiful but heartbreaking post by Harris Wittels’s mother Maureen today called “The Loss Of My Son Harris Wittels To Heroin,” and the whole post is well worth the read. In hopes of helping other people who have friends or family members struggling with drug addiction, Maureen reflects on how well Harris hid his own addictive personality from those who were closest to him, which ultimately led to the heroin overdose that killed him in February 2015. Here’s an excerpt from Maureen’s piece:

All Harris ever longed to do was make people laugh. However, on the inside, he was not laughing. He admitted to doing recreational drugs since 12 years of age. How could we not know?! We did not bury our heads and we were not stupid people. We were great parents. He would tell you that himself as he told therapist after therapist. We were very involved in his life. He made straight As, had tons of friends, and was very driven and straightforward about what he wanted to do with his life. He was a total self-starter. We never had to beg him to do his homework. He got a scholarship to college.

While Maureen says she noticed a change in Harris during the last few years of his life, “I saw the light literally go out of his eyes and suspected nothing. Why? Because he was busy being so successful! Harris had become a very successful high-functioning drug addict,” she explains. She also shared the final email she received from Harris the night before he died, where he gives her a heads up about the Parks and Recreation finale and his new place in New York, where he was slated to costar with Aziz Ansari in Master of None:

harris wittels Feb 19

There’s only one more episode left and its the big farewell episode that will make you cry. i found a cool place to live in Manhattan. I feel good!! I am feeling very fortunate. Love you

In memory of Harris, Maureen has founded the first Houston, Texas support chapter of GRASP (Grief Recovery After a Substance Passing) and lists ways the US can start working toward better approaches and treatment for drug addicts. “The stigma associated with addiction must be obliterated. People who struggle with addiction should be able to ask for help without feeling afraid or embarrassed,” she writes. “When they do ask for help, their loved ones must get involved and help them find the best method of treatment.” Here’s another excerpt from the piece:

Harris worked very hard to achieve his dreams. He fought valiantly to beat his demons. When he died, we received so many testimonials of just how kind he was to everyone no matter who they were. One of his most famous Harris-isms was, “Let’s stop burning the witch of the week. We are all wonderful and horrible and figuring it out.” He gave everyone the benefit of the doubt. Something else he would say was, “Stop future-tripping. All we have is today.”

I have become a warrior mom, trying to live a new life without my hero in it and trying to make some sense out of his death by attempting to save others from this nightmare. All I have is today, and I am trying really hard to make it count, for him.

He had so much more love, laughter and talent left to give this world, but heroin took his life. It won. It stole our son, brother, uncle, friend, writer, comedian, actor and drummer. It stole too many pieces of our hearts.

Read Maureen’s full post here.

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