Harris Wittels, co-executive producer of Parks and Recreation and inventor of the word “humblebrag,” passed away from a heroin overdose in February of 2015. Wittels was well-respected in the comedy world and wrote for shows like The Sarah Silverman Program, Eastbound and Down, and, most famously, Parks and Recreation. His story and struggles with addiction, like so many other young talents who pass away before their time, is indicative of the fact that addiction can affect anyone, regardless of success of talent. Wittels was open about his struggles with heroin. David Sims, in a 2016 article for The Atlantic entitled The Loss of Harris Wittels, writes, “A huge part of his appeal as a comic was his naked honesty, and Wittels openly discussed his problems with drugs and his efforts to get sober on-stage and off. Last November, he appeared on the comedian Pete Holmes’ show You Made It Weird and frankly essayed the addiction to oxycodone he developed following a tough breakup, how that morphed into heroin use, and his trips to two rehabilitation clinics. By all accounts, he continued to battle with addiction, asking for help from fellow comics for an upcoming stint in New York.” Wittels was well aware of his problem with drugs, even attending a treatment center only to relapse shortly after leaving. Despite his success, Wittels fell into the painful traps of family problems and isolation that most men and women struggling with addiction are familiar with. His mother, Maureen Wittels, in a 2016 Huffington Post article entitled The Loss of My Son Harris Wittels to Heroin, explains, “During the last few years of his life, we would visit him in Los Angeles and he always acted like we were intruding. We finally decided not to visit and we attributed this to his hectic life he lived in Hollywood land. He came home for fewer and fewer holidays and special occasions and, if truth be told, 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.” Despite his talent and success, Wittels’ addiction, like so many others struggling with the disease, ended in tragedy. His sister, Stephanie Wittels, recently published a book about her brother entitled Everything is Horrible and Wonderful: A Tragicomic Memoir of Genius, Heroin, Love, and Loss that speaks honestly and openly about her brother’s life and struggles with heroin as only a person who has lost a loved one to addiction can.
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