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.