ERNIE AND ERNESTINA: Searching

Book Two, Chapter Eight: A Twelve-Step Meeting

Several times I’ve asked Joshua to attend a Twelve-Step meeting with me. Tonight, surprising me, he’s agreed.

To preserve our anonymity, we sit away from each other, three people between us. This is my fourth time with this group. It’s the group and setting I feel most comfortable in — my home group. I’m hoping Joshua will feel comfortable here, too.

Surprising me again, he raises his hand soon after the leader opens the floor for sharing.

“I've been in an on-again, off-again relationship with an alcoholic for thirteen years,” he says. “My father was an alcoholic. He stopped drinking the day Kennedy was shot. He always told me not to drink, and I listened to him. I don’t drink. I don’t do drugs. But I am attracted to chaos, drama, excitement. Women. I’m the go-to person. You have a problem? Something that needs fixing? I’m your man. I’m the fixer-upper. I’ve tried to love my girlfriend and to help her, but I realize I need to take care of myself now. Restore myself. Recover myself.”

Ernie and I rarely talked of Christy’s alcoholism between ourselves or with Joshua, although Ernie and Christy had several conversations about “the curtain dropping” — the moment when they both knew they were about to black out. We did know Joshua’s relationship with Christy was rocky. “She’s punched me,” he’s told us. “Thrown things at me. Said she wanted to kill me. She puts me down. Questions my manhood. Calls me weak. Working with her is impossible. She can’t get along with anyone. She likes to fight. When she drinks, her voice gets loud. ‘You can’t tell me what to do. I’m a big girl. If I want to drink, I’ll drink.’ It takes all my self-control to walk away from her when she pushes my buttons.”

Now, talking to the Twelve-Step group, Joshua says: “I have a good angel on one shoulder, a bad angel on the other.” He touches one shoulder, then the other. “Sometimes I choose the bad angel. But I know it’s important to take care of myself. I have to love myself and to take care of myself. I can’t let her destroy my peace.”

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Ernestina

My writer husband’s favorite nickname for me was Ernestina, so in this 2-book memoir, he is Ernie. This is his story, our story, and my story. I invite you in.