Mother of Comedian Harris Wittels Pens Essay About Losing Son To Heroin Addiction

By David Konow 11/08/16

"I’m writing this so other families will hopefully know what we didn’t."

Mother of Comedian Harris Wittels Pens Essay About Losing Son To Heroin Addiction
Photovia USA Today/YouTube

Harris Wittels was a comedian who got his lucky break at the tender age of 22 when he was discovered performing standup by Sarah Silverman, and he soon became part of her writing staff. Wittels would go on to write for other top shows like Parks and Recreation, which he was also a producer of, and Eastbound & Down

Wittels overdosed on heroin at the age of 30 on Feb. 19, 2015. Now Wittels’ mother, Maureen, has crafted a haunting remembrance of her son in the Huffington Post, where she wrote that heroin “stole our son, brother, uncle, friend, writer, comedian, actor and drummer. It stole too many pieces of our hearts.”

Maureen recalled her son being a “nice Jewish boy” who grew up in a well-to-do suburb. “My son would never, ever take that drug called heroin!” Wittels writes, emulating what a lot of parents would exclaim when they learn that their children are addicted. “These kinds of kids don’t do such a thing!”

Unbeknownst to his mother, Harris started experimenting with drugs when he was 12. It wasn’t obvious from the outside. He was a popular kid, got straight As, and he came from a healthy family. In later years, Maureen saw less and less of her son, which she chalked up to his busy schedule. Looking back on it, she wrote, “I saw the light literally go out of his eyes and suspected nothing. Why? Because he was busy being so successful.” But the truth was, “Harris had become a very successful high-functioning drug addict.”

Harris took several trips to rehab, including the Hazelden clinic. The night before he died, he emailed his mother, telling her, “I feel good!! I am feeling very fortunate. Love you.” The next day, TMZ reported the news of Harris’ overdose death before anyone was able to contact Maureen.

“I really believed this time was different,” she lamented. “He would never have chosen to leave this devastation behind. I lost half of my future: my daughter-in-law, my grandchildren, and the carrying on of the Wittels name for many generations to come.”

In the wake of her son’s death, Maureen Wittels founded a chapter of GRASP (Grief Recovery After a Substance Passing), a community of people who have had a loved one die from a drug overdose. “I have become a warrior mom,” she says, “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.”

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In addition to contributing for The Fix, David Konow has also written for Esquire, Deadline, LA Weekly, Village Voice, The Wrap, and many other publications and websites. He is also the author of the three decade history of heavy metal, Bang Your Head (Three Rivers Press), and the horror film history Reel Terror (St Martins Press). Find David on LinkedIn and Facebook.