R.I.P. Harris Wittels

The LA comedy scene is mourning Harris Wittels today, the writer/comedian who passed away yesterday, presumably from an overdose. I too am mourning. I knew him – or more accurately – have met him several times. My heartfelt condolences and sympathy goes out to his family and friends.

And his death is a shame. Truly, a fucking shame.

It sucks that he’s gone. I hope some good can come of his passing. I hope that this mistake will somehow save somebody else or get someone to take addiction – their own or that of a loved one – that much more seriously.

It feels callous and a bit opportunistic to write about him and maybe it is, but the fact is his death underscores a reality I’ve understood for many years, a reality that is easy to forget, but no less a reality. And I feel like writing about it today. If his death is what spurs that, then so be it.

I’ve long understood that any one of us, those of us that are afflicted with the “disease” of addiction, can be struck down at any moment. Which is not to say that I’ve always heeded to the wisdom of that knowledge; the truth is quite the opposite actually. Somebody who has been sober for some time should not seek out and ingest opiates while having a solo booze party. I have done just that and lived to tell the tale; despite knowing there’s a chance I could die as a result. As Harris was in recovery, it sounds like he knew it too and decided to throw caution to the wind. He thought he’d get away with it one more time, as he had – most likely – many times in the past.

I don’t know the details, beyond his death being called an overdose, but that’s the reality that all of us addicts live with; whether we think about it or not. You know, we know, that booze and drugs can kill us.

I first started losing friends from drugs and drink when I was a teenager, mostly to drunk driving accidents. Then, in my 20’s when I began using hard drugs, friends dropped left and right. It shocked me, but had next to no affect on my behavior. Those same kinds of deaths continued into adulthood. People just die. There is really no revelation to be found here. Even in sobriety. Especially in sobriety. Somebody slips and they slip hard and die. It’s a fact. People OD every day. It’s real. A slip can lead to your demise.

And often the fuse that leads to that slip is hidden. It’s private. It’s burning down somewhere deep inside us as we go about our otherwise seemingly normal lives. When it’s time, it’s time. We slip and take that drink, the drink leads to the pill and at that point, consequences be damned. It will probably be okay we think. It’s just a slip. That’s why they call it a slip. It’s temporary. We can get back in the sobriety train tomorrow. But then we can’t. Because we’re dead.

It’s events like these that remind me to be grateful for my life. Even though I try to practice that gratitude on a daily basis, it’s always a little more potent on a day like today. It could all fall away so easily. It could all go dark. And then we are all just somebody else’s memory. End of story.

Some days I feel weak for thinking that way, for cultivating gratitude for being alive, for all the people in my life, my dog, my house and my friends. But it’s not weak. It beats the alternative, going around thinking that everything sucks, that things aren’t good enough, that life isn’t worth living. I’ve tried it that way and being grateful is better. Besides it will all be over soon enough, right? No need to hasten the end. Thank you today for my sobriety. Thank you today for my life. Thank you for my ability to write this note.

Rest in peace Harris. I pray for serenity for all of those that are struggling. It’s worth the fight. Keep it up. It gets easier. It gets better. I swear it.

2 comments

  1. rg

    I’ve been enjoying your posts. A tip of the hat to you for exploring the psychic terroir…it’s desolate terrain. This comes long after Harris’ sad demise but I think you might find this podcast :: http://nerdist.com/you-made-it-weird-236-harris-wittels-returns/ :: of interest. I listened to it a few times and found a kind of existential logic that you may share that I can only express with a kind of existential formulation using mathematic terminology :: x/eternity :: which to me has a kind of resonance in that however short or long you live against the backdrop of forever it’s just a drop (not a recommendation of death however). The reason I make that remark in response to your post on Harris is that he is the only other person I have heard express the same kind of idea and, if you listen closely to what he says in the podcast, says it with a kind of resignation that I felt to be that of questioning existence in only the way the kind of philosophic comedic persona he displayed could be capable. Further speculation as to his mental or spiritual state would be untoward. I hope you don’t take this as wallowing in the morbidity and tragic circumstance but a heartfelt acknowledgement of something (perhaps) with which he and other intellectually bent persons wrestle/d.

    • futurepilgrim

      RG – Thanks for leaving a comment and your thoughtful consideration of the topic at hand. I’ve been aware of that episode for some time and have been meaning to listen to it. You mentioning it means I’ll get to it that much sooner. It sounds interesting.

      As hard as I try at times I can’t imagine living without pondering the big question, that being, why the fuck are we here? What are we supposed to be doing? Does anything really matter? At all? In a way comedians are perhaps best suited to answering questions like those. I’ll take a good comedians’ suggestion before a Priests’ but perhaps not before a Physicist’s.

      Thanks again for the visit,
      JM

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