I have only three of my mother’s Billiette Calling! Silver Dollar columns. I asked my family if they had any copies and my brother Michael sent me two additional columns. On February 5, 2021 I decided to attend the Fargo AA Chapter meeting, where Billiette had been a member when she wrote her column. This seemed to be the place to locate copies of the Silver Dollar and re-publish her columns. I walked slowly up and into the brown-stone house imagining that Billiette had often walked into – I sensed her presence! I stood still in the main entryway, then entered a full living room on my left where I was greeted by a friendly and welcoming Mike R. I introduced myself, telling him I was Billiette Scherling’s son and was wondering if the Fargo Chapter had copies of her columns. Mike suggested I call Bruce R. who he said had scanned the Silver Dollar papers and stored a digital copy and the papers in the House. I was told Bruce was not feeling well, but he did return my call suggesting that I write a letter to the Chapter’s Board of Director’s requesting access to the Silver Dollar columns. I wrote and mailed this letter:
February 9, 2021
Silver Dollar Society
PO Box 1991
1112 3rd Avenue South
Fargo ND 58103
Dear SOS Members: I visited the AA Chapter House on February 5 and spoke with Mike R about my mother Billiette Scherling writing the column titled Billiette Calling! for the Silver Dollar Newsletter. Mike suggested I call Bruce R and Bruce told me he had digitized some of the Silver Dollar issues and that a distal file and the paper copies were stored at the Fargo AA House.
I would like to propose to the Chapter that I be given access to these issues for the purpose of assembling the Billiette Calling column into a publication illustrating Billie’s struggle to overcome her addiction. Such a book might have wide readership and, if you have an interest, I am hoping we might meet to discuss how such a project would be structed and managed.
I have an MBA degree in management, have written and published several papers, managed associations newsletters, maintain a blog, and the family has a website. I hope that we might meet to discuss if such a project seems worthy and how to move forward.
I often spoke with my mother about her work and see this a way for me to better understand, communicate, and commemorate her work with AA.
Cordially, Steven Scherling
I waited a week and did not receive a response. Should I have sent the letter registered mail requiring a signature? I waited several more days and then decided to call the Fargo AA Chapter’s Chairman of the Board of Directors. I called many times for several days leaving my number but he did not returned my calls. I could not understand why a recovering alcoholic would not respond to my letter or return my calls on an the idea to present a unique AA story of recovery. Something is not right!
3/26/2021 4:50 AM Morning Page I had stop drinking shortly after my March 1 birthday and decided, I know with mom’s influence, to begin attending Fargo AA Chapter meetings. This was a ‘big’ decision and I made it; I realized with Mom’s help. I had received my first Covid-19 shot on March 23 and attended my first Fargo Chapter AA meeting on March 26 at 10am. I sat at one end of the rectangle room such that I could see everyone, waiting with a copy of Billiette Calling! to pass around. The meeting monitor sitting close by picked up on my newness and sensed I wanted to say something before the meeting began. I stood and started a copy of Billiette Calling! around the room as I began to explain why I was here. When a copy reached the opposite end of the room, a Chapter Board member I later learned, took the copy and threw it back around the circle angerly saying “This is not the place for this’! I sat down, receiving several questioning glances as if it was expected I would leave. One fellow then asked if I was an alcoholic attending the meeting, I said yes. I realized that his was going to require rethinking how Billiette’s Silver Dollar columns would be acquired. I hoped that this was not going to be a war, however, I wondered what SunTzu would suggest.
4/2/2021 5:17 AM Morning Page. I thought throughout the night about what to say at this morning’s AA meeting, finally got out of bed, brewed some coffee, and wrote down what I planned to say.
Hello, I am Steve an awakening alcoholic. It was a very reflective week since last Friday’s meeting. It was the second time I was in the house and the first upstairs to the meeting room. One of the members told us of his ritual drive to and from the meeting. I think I take the same drive down University to 3rd Avenue and here. However, what is on my mind is that my mother in-spirit is with me as I drove here and entered the Chapter House. And at one moment in last week’s meeting, I vividly sensed she was right beside me!
Another member told us, as best as I can remember, how he was using different adjectives to describe what he was feeling. Last week I introduced myself as a ‘recovering alcoholic’ and after reflecting some I introduced myself today as ‘an awaking alcoholic’. To me this represents an important change from looking back to my past when I was drinking – to looking forward being free of the urge to have a drink. An ‘awaking alcoholic’ is like getting up in the morning looking forward to a clean day. There is more to work out on what one then does during the day and when I get it more sorted out, I will share it. I know most of you here have already worked this out and that is what we are sharing. However, I think everyone has to work this through on his or her own.
I have the book The Wounded Researcher – Research with Soul, which I have been re-reading yearly for 7 years and some of its chapters every month. In the last chapter Writing down the Soul that author Robert Romanyshyn tell us that when he is writing down the soul of his work, his ancestors are gathered around behind him – looking on. Our ancestors, he maintains, have a vested interest in what we are doing. It occurred to me that AA members are engaged in Soul Work and I now see this is my mother’s work. Her Silver Dollar columns are very helpful to me and I expect could be to others.
I will end by reading a paragraph from Billiette’s April 1974 Silver Dollar column just before she left Fargo to train in Norton Kansas to be an Alcoholic councilor.
My search for me was found when I began to know my brother and sister alcoholic. They shared themselves with me – their anger – their hurts – there very inner selves – their gut level feelings were mine, and mine were theirs and we were one. What a wonderful awakening to know I could find myself through others who were lost like me (Billiette Calling! April 1974).
I then requested access to Billiette’s Silver Dollar columns stored in the Chapter House and passed.
4/4/2021 9:14 AM Morning Page I have asked the I Ching for advice on many issues during my life, recorded its advice, tying to follow through on what was advised. On April 4, 2021 at 9am I asked this question “What of my request to Fargo’s AA Chapter to have access to the Billiette Calling! columns?” I received Hexagram 11. Tai / Peace which is encouraging. Here is the I Ching’s response:
11. Tai / Peace
____ ____ above K’UN THE RECEPTIVE, EARTH
__________ below CH’IEN THE CREATIVE, HEAVEN
The Receptive, which moves downward, stands above; the Creative, which moves upward, is below. Hence their influences meet and are in harmony, so that all living thinks bloom and prosper. The hexagram belongs to the first month (February-March), at which time the forces of nature prepare the new spring.
Peace. The small departs
The great approaches.
Good fortune. Success
This hexagram denotes a time in nature when heaven seems to be on earth. Heaven has placed itself beneath the earth, and blessing descend upon all living things.|
In the world of man, it is a time of social harmony; those in high places show favor to the lowly, and the lowly and inferior in their turn are well disposed toward the highly placed. There is an end to all feuds.
Inside, at the center, in the key position, is the light principle; the dark principle is outside. Thus, the light has a powerful influence, while the dark is submissive. In this way each receives its due. When the good elements of society occupy a central position and are in control, the evil elements come under their influence and change or the better. When the spirit of heaven rules in man, his animal nature also comes under its influence and takes its appropriate place. The individual lines enter the hexagram from below and leave it again at the top. Here the small, weak, and evil elements are about to take their departure, while the great, strong, and good elements are moving up. This brings good fortune and success.
Thunder over the lake:
The image of THE MARRYING MAIDEN.
Thus the superior man
Understands the transitory
In the light of the eternity of the end.
Thunder sites the water of the lake, which follows it in shimmering waves. This symbolizes the girl who follows the man of her choice. But every relationship between individuals bears within it the danger that wrong turns may be taken, leading to endless misunderstandings and disagreements. Therefore it is necessary constantly to remain mindful of the end. If we permit ourselves to drift along, we come together and are parted again as the day may determine. If on the other hand a man fixes his mind on an end that endures, he will succeed in avoiding the reefs that confront the closer relationship of people.
I had asked Mom to accompany and support my efforts having learned from reading The Wounded Researcher: Research with Soul in Mind that our ancestors stand beside us as we work on. I then soon realized that she was behind David and I meeting as we walked into last Friday’s AA meeting, separating into a smaller group together, and talking for 15 minutes after the meeting, learning he knew Billiette having attended one of her talks. We planned to meet for coffee, to discuss experiences recovering or as I say awakening from alcohol use. I sense that synchronization is operating.
I now wait patiently to see how to continue with the Fargo AA Chapter’s position on my request to have access to Billiette’s Calling columns. This effort has taken considerable time and thought preparing, attending, and journaling about this experience. I am thinking to fold this effort into the Dreaming Project and let it stand as an Amplification of the dream I had before attending my first Fargo AA meeting. I understand that Billiette is working behind the scene and will wait patiently for this to unfold.
4/9/2021 6:53 AM Morning Page. I am attending this morning’s AA meeting at 10 am. Here is what I prepared to say:
I am Steve an awakening alcoholic. This is my third meeting since beginning last month. I realize that this meeting is a monolog but I have always sat in a circle having a dialogue with others. So, I felt a desire to ask you all more about your struggles with addiction. So, this week I met a long-term member of this Chapter for coffee and we talked for almost 2 hours. My new friend said that I was different than others attending the meeting, saying that I had an agenda to obtain my mother’s Billiette Calling Silver Dollar columns.
I disagreed with his understanding of my situation and told him why. In looking at all individual’s here this morning, I see similarities! We all have had similar experiences with the effects of alcohol and we also are finding similar means and persons to help us address this. In my case, my mother helped me personally in 1973 and again in 2021 through her Silver Dollar Columns. This is the bases of my request to the AA Chapter Board – to be allowed to have access to her columns that are stored in the Fargo AA Chapter house. The few columns I have, have been helping me with my sobriety. The Board meets next week and I was told that this is on its agenda to be discussed – I am hopeful! Thank you and I will pass.
4/11/2021 9:00 PM Email to David.
Hello David, I listen carefully in our meetings and often there are points from each speaker that stand out, however, there are so many, after the meeting only a few are remembered. I need to take notes. What struck me, and I said this to you as we chatted leaving the house, is that you still seem to be ‘supporting’ the Board’s position of not giving me access to Billiette’s columns. I know you said you were going to do this last week and I really welcomed your stance. However, after last Friday’s meeting and what I said, I sensed you still do not understand fully why this is happening. We do not know for sure what the Board’s position is until after Monday’s meeting. However, I am pessimistic about the outcome based on their past behaviors and your stated sense of what is coming down, which you indicated to me leaving the Chapter meeting last week. This being said there seems no reason for me to try to appear before the Board having already having been told it is difficult to do and that one needs an invitation. Besides, my letter was received and the issue I assume is on their agenda. I had thought to ask you to attend to see how they come to a decision on my request. Might you consider attending?
I understand you are not as interested as I am to watch how this group of recovering alcoholics decide this issue. You do realize this is the way I was trained as an organizational psychologist, which is to understand an organization’s decision-making processes. I would like to have been in the room observing their processes, mapping their logic. However, I am at an endpoint and am now thinking about what comes next. This is almost all time I can give this issue and as I mentioned before, Billiette will still be working to get her columns to her family! Regards, Steven
4/15/2021 7:35 AM After a short hesitation, I emailed the above entry titled Empathy to David and my brother Michael with this added to Michael’s email, “I seem not to be interested in ‘dusting the balls’ of the AA Board of Directors, they metaphorically speaking need to be cut off!”
4/15/2021 9:09 AM Good morning David. I hope you slept well last night! I had several disturbing dreams with people angrily having to make decisions. The dreams were interesting and expected under the circumstances unfolding this week in our AA family. In the night, I tried thinking about what I wanted to say at the AA meeting this Friday and could only get half a sentence thought before giving up as my thoughts race on. If a decision was made regarding the ‘Billiette Calling’ columns last Monday, I expect that you have heard what it is. I understand your position of keeping your distance. With the 5 BC columns I have now, the project has reached 25 pages of writing. No matter what the Board’s decision is, I will retain my analysis of their behavior. To be honest it adds suspense, how is this going to turn out? As mentioned, I intend to be a fair ‘participant observer’ in writing about what is happening. The title of this image is ‘empathy’ a very challenging skill to develop – let’s see if an attempt can be made. Regards, Steven
4/15/2021 9:21 AM There, the above email was sent to David and Michael. Very interesting, as my past work with empathy has found a place in experiencing Billiette’s AA columns!
Michael, here is what I have added to the last section mentioning ‘empathy’, which I just sent you. It states clearly what my suggestion is for the Fargo AA Chapter is to try being more empathic. How many pages will it take me to present Jeremy Rifkin’s empathic thesis? I now sense what Mom’s Calling is Calling Steven to write – this is going to be challenging! I am now thinking to complete writing on the 5 columns we have and then look deeper into her other written work. Yes, it would be great to have to have all Mom’s columns in our possession before this needs to be considered! There, this is now being drafted inside as a part of the Billiette Calling manuscript now unfolding… is it preparing the ground for a more empathic Fargo AA Chapter – this might happen. The Empathic Civilization, was published on May 6, 2010 by Jeremy Rifkin as he investigates the evolution of empathy that has and is shaping civilization. I have a serious concern about the lack of empathic thinking in Fargo’s AA Chapter.
4/17/2021 6:54 AM Morning Page Good morning Michael, I had prepared this above, printed it out, and reviewed it before I took my turn at Fargo AA meeting Friday. With this in mind, like everyone, I just talk trying to keep the outline in mind as a guide. I did well but missed the one important idea, repeating for the fourth time in attending these meetings that I seek the columns of Billiette, past member of this Chapter who wrote for the Silver Dollar Paper, copies that are stored in this AA Chapter house. I also did not give a copy of Mom’s column that I had printed to the woman I had in mind to give it to. This was suggested by David who observed that women in the Chapter are more sensitive and would be more receptive to my request for Billiette’s columns. For some reason I did not do this, after the meeting walked straight out and drove home. At first, I was disappointed, however, then I realized that last week I had turned this over to Mom to work on, this was her call! I remember the Chinese concept of wu wei and accepted the stream of life that is in motion! I will then add this to the Billiette Calling! book, which is still a dream unfolding! Steven, An Awakening Self! PS I will write soon on the change from a ‘recovering’ to an ‘awakening’ alcoholic – this is theoretical element of the experiential learning model. At the last meeting I sketched this idea but need to fully develop the idea of ‘An Awakening Self’.
4/16/2021 7:42 AM Good morning, I am Steven an awakening Alcoholic. This past week, I was again reflecting about having had attended several meetings now, listening to the readings and to others, thinking, and understanding what is being experiencing. I do much of this not sleeping well, finally getting out of bed, making coffee, and writing down what is tumbling about in my mind. I remember learning this process from one of an Oklahoma professor. He had a textbook for the class and assigned a chapter which we read and prepared. Then in the classroom of 15 students, he took a seat among us and asked us to lead and discuss the readings, later to write a short paper. I later learned this is the ‘experiential learning method’ and in several ways AA meetings are similar.
I recently realized that I must pay closer attention to the readings beginning each AA meeting and then to what each member is saying. As I mentioned before, I have a need to write about what I am experiencing to better understand, it is my way of learning to stay sober. I also learned this from my mother Billiette who was a member of this Chapter and wrote a column for the Silver Dollar Paper. When I finished working yesterday evening, I turned on the TV just in time for the start of the British Netflix Documentary “The Truth About Alcohol”. It is frightening, I recommend it! I pass.
4/20/2021 6:03 AM Morning Page
On Friday I could not attend our meeting because I had to visit a friend living on his farm who is having alcohol difficulties living alone now that his wife has left for medical reason. I got to know Jerry as a member of a university fraternity, where we started drinking. He has been a long-time, hard-drinking, past member of the Fargo AA Chapter, and now alone struggling for a life. One would have expected that by the time one is 75, life would about writing a bestselling book of memories. I recently sensed that “the AA approach” that I have been experiencing, is missing an important element which Billiette addressed in her columns, like the really understanding the processes of ‘self-actualization’ which is here addressed by Tom Cheetham – Spiritiual Imagination of the work of Henry Crobin. This is an amazing understanding of Corbin’s work and I sensed a need to understand what this documentary is telling us on being alone with the alone.
4/30/2021 7:08 AM I prepared for AA meeting this morning.
Good morning, I am Steven awakening more every day. I thought this past week of not attending today’s meeting. This is my 6th meeting in a row and I am making progress. However, my efforts to work this program are being tested. I have still not received any word or help form the Chapter on getting access to my mother Billiette’s Silver Dollar columns that she wrote. However, this past weekend I was asked by a long-time friend and the MN Social Service agency to attend a meeting to help a long time alcoholic. I drove 30 miles last Sunday and whitened the State of MN intervein in my friend’s life and ask me to help. When the 2-hour session was over and the case worker had left, my friend asked me to take him to the liquor store. His wife has left, he lives alone, and now in the care of the State.
He was a member of the Fargo AA Chapter and has attended the Lake Park AA Chapter meetings, which I am now thinking we may attend together. My point of sharing this, is that in these few short weeks, I seem to be making personal progress, even now helping a close friend, but still, I feel resentment toward this Chapter’s seemingly lack of concern for what I am asking for my sobriety, to have access to my mother’s Silver Dollar columns that are stored the Chapter House. You can now Google “Billiette Calling” for the first posting of her Silver Dollar column.
Thank you for listening, I pass.
This is what I said, resumed listening to others, and when the meeting ended, pause for a moment, stated to walk toward the main door, when a Chapter Board Member motioned me into the main floor living room, where he and two other members sat down – I realized they wanted to talk with me and sat down facing them. The AA member directly across form me was 6′ 300 pounds and did all the talking, aggressively with words and non-verbal behavior getting off the couch warning me to stop requesting the Billiette Calling columns and then saying if I did not he would physically have to intervene. He said there were no Silver Dollar papers in the House and only one old computer. There was a lie, if the papers had been digitized as we were told they had been, I asked, “may I see the computer you have in the house?” He stood up all 300 pounds and I at 150 ponds was required to meet his aggressiveness stood up taking half a step forward, marking the territory I would defend! He and the others marched out of the living room. I headed for the main door and left! It was a clear sunny day!
To realize that we don’t have to live in the dark sides of our minds, that there is a LIGHT shining to show us the way out of our private “hells’ is “having a spiritual awaking” (Billiette Calling! March 1974).
It took the Fargo AA Board of Directors 82 days to finally respond to my request – they were not truthful and verbally threatening! I vividly remember Billiette Calling this stinking thinking behaving!
To be continued …