After yesterday’s news about the death of 30-year-old Parks and Red writer/comedian Harris Wittels, his friends and peers filled our Twitter news feeds with mourning, stories and photos. People were hurting and needed to talk about that. And Amy Poehler was no exception.
Speaking at an event for Unite4Humanity, Poehler skipped the jokes and spoke lovingly of her friend.
So today, I lost a friend. I lost a dear, young man in my life who was struggling with addiction and who died just a few hours before we came. Jane [Aronson] and I sat and talked about it, and I’m sharing it with you because life and death live so closely together and we walk that fine line every day. At the end of the day, when things happen in our lives and we turn to people that we love and we turn to family and community for support, we lean on people and hope that they will ease our pain.
I don’t really feel like telling any jokes. I’m kind of sad. And it’s been really great to be here tonight and to be listening to all of you and inspired by the great work that you do and to be reminded why you live in this bizarre planet called ‘Hollywood.’ It’s very strange. I feel like talking about WWO [Worldwide Orphans], I feel like talking about the good work that they do, I feel like focusing on trauma and loss, how they encourage children through play and sport and creative arts… I feel not like telling jokes but celebrating with all of you tonight - everyone that works at WWO keeps reminding me of a very basic thing which is, I think we are all connected.
What you have all done for me tonight is when something feels really big, too big to handle, just go very small. Just go real small, just look at the person next to you and look in their eyes and meet the person next to you, find out their name, change one person’s life and make one call, write one letter, give one dollar. Whatever small thing feels like what you can do — it changes the course of the ship and that is all it is.
Wittels was only 30 years old. Addiction is a hideous, horrible thing. That’s why the first two syllables are “a dick.” Something we’ve heard a lot in my husband’s struggle is this: addicts get sober, or they die. These words stick with me and stab me in my gut every single time we lose someone else to the disease, to this dick of an illness.
If it has ever occurred to you for even one single solitary second that you might have a problem with addiction, please, get help. I know it’s scary. But I also know there’s hope. There’s always hope. The accidental deaths caused by drugs, they can happen to anyone. It doesn’t matter if you’re a 30-year-old writer or a 46-year-old beloved actor. And it damn sure doesn’t matter if you’re a 29-year-old father, which is what I think of every time, which is what all of us who love an addict think every time. Every overdose could have been my addict.
So, take care of yourself. Get help. Like Poehler said, lean on people. They might ease that pain.