The “Women Seeking Serenity Through The 12 Steps” movement (WSS) had its beginnings in Alcoholics Anonymous. On January 21, 1982, a group of women recovering from alcoholism formed a group called the Bonita Springs Women’s Group. They met on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays at 10:00 a.m. The Monday group focused on studying the 12 Steps. The Wednesday and Saturday morning meetings were discussion meetings. Someone would read from the 24 Hour A Day Meditation Book and/or Each Day A New Beginning. Both of these books are from Hazelden and neither was approved by Alcoholics Anonymous. The original group decided that any woman who was troubled by addictions – her own or others – could come to the meetings. This was the only group serving the needs of just women in either south Lee County or north Collier County. The group met in this manner for ten years.
Then, in 1992, one of the members came back from an Alcoholics Anonymous Intergroup Meeting and informed the group that it was operating contrary to the rules of AA. Permitting anyone other than alcoholics to speak is not acceptable according to the primary purpose of AA. She suggested that women who were not alcoholic simply say they were, and then they could speak. This flew in the face of 12-Step recovery program requirements: for a person to get better, rigorous honesty is an absolute must. A large number of women objected to making people say they were something they weren’t – and the struggle was on. It went on for months until one of the members suggested that it was time to split into two groups. One would be a closed group where only alcoholics could speak, and the other would be an open group which allowed others to participate.
And so the groups went their separate ways and eventually met in different churches. Each group thrived and grew. The Open Meeting continued to allow women from all 12-Step groups to speak and participate. The only change that occurred for the open group was cancellation of the Monday meeting because of scheduling problems.
On January 15, 2005, two women from the local Intergroup of Alcoholics Anonymous came to the open meeting to audit it. Someone had complained that the group allowed people other than alcoholics to speak and participate in the group. The women from AA spoke with the group’s secretary-treasurer and took her name and address. Not long after that meeting, the secretary-treasurer received a letter from them, which she read to the group on the following Wednesday and Saturday so that most, if not all the members would be aware of what was being asked of the group. We were asked to adhere to speaking only of alcohol and alcoholism and to prevent people who were not alcoholics from speaking in the meetings.
There were extremes of emotion among the members. Many felt shamed. Others were angry. All felt violated by the person or persons who had “turned the group in” to AA’s Intergroup. But a series of group conscience meeting was held. The first laid out the choices we had before us. The second took the pulse of the group. The third was the final vote. There were people voting who had as many as thirty years of continuous recovery and others with just a few weeks in the program. Several had suffered relapses and were always welcomed back to the group. The vote was unanimous – we would separate ourselves from Alcoholics Anonymous.
But there was also a firm resolve to continue to focus on the 12 Steps and to study both the 12 Steps and 12 Traditions of Alcoholics Anonymous. We compiled meeting schedules for as many 12-Step Recovery groups as could be found and made this information available for everyone who attended our meetings. It was agreed that if anyone came to the group in the throes of active alcoholism, drugging, overeating, bulemia, anorexia, gambling or any other of the hundreds of addictions humans can get trapped in, they would be referred to the appropriate groups. They would be permitted to attend Women Seeking Serenity, but they would have to find physical, mental, and spiritual sobriety in the appropriate recovery programs as well.
The Wednesday meeting became the 12-Step and 12-Traditions study group and the Saturday meeting remains a discussion meeting. Both groups begin with a reading of the meditation for April 6th from Daily Reflections, the only meditation book approved of by Alcoholics Anonymous. It is soundly believed by the members that Bill Wilson was completely right about the underlying cause of alcoholism and all other addictions. That meditation follows:
Daily Reflections -- April 6th
We were having trouble with personal relationships, we couldn’t control our emotional natures, we were a prey to misery and depression, we couldn’t make a living, we had a feeling of hopelessness, we were full of fear, we were unhappy, we couldn’t seem to be of real help to other people . . . (Alcoholics Anonymous, Page 52)
Those words remind me that I have more problems than alcohol, that alcohol is only a symptom of a more pervasive disease. When I stopped drinking I began a lifetime process of recovery from unruly emotions, painful relationships, and unmanageable situations. This process is too much for most of us without help from a Higher Power and our friends in the Fellowship. When I began working the Steps of the A.A. program, many of these tangled threads unraveled but, little by little, the most broken places of my life straightened out. One day at a time, almost imperceptibly, I healed. Like a thermostat being turned down, my fears diminished. I began to experience moments of contentment. My emotions became less volatile. I am now, once again, a part of the human family.
The Group’s Preamble, read at the opening of each meeting, was revised as follows to further define the parameters and purpose of the group:
Women Seeking Serenity Through The 12 Steps is a sisterhood of women who share their experience, strength, and hope with each other that they may solve their common problems in life and help others to recover from addictions and painful relationships. The only requirement for membership is a desire to end self-abuse and abuse of others or by others. There are no dues or fees for membership. We are self supporting through our own contributions. We are not allied with any sect, denomination, politics, organization, or institution; we do not wish to engage in any controversy and we don’t endorse or oppose any causes. Our primary purpose is to unite with other women in the search for serenity and God’s purposes for our lives.
At the end of season, 2006, a number of women took meeting packets north. Founding of new WSS groups began to happen. Questions began to come in about what should be done with funds being collected. Was there a central group that would need funding so that new groups could be founded and all groups could be supported with literature, etc.? The original group contributed large amounts of money to Hope Lutheran Church in Bonita Springs so that there would be no temptation to treasurers who would have to carry substantial amounts of money. The 7th Tradition was being carefully followed. But it became clear that the group had to decide on how to utilize the funds collected to take the powerful healing being found in the group to the rest of the world. It was determined that at least half of the funds would continue to go to the church, and that the remaining funds would be utilized in a new way.
On May 27, 2006, a group conscience meeting was held at which it was decided that the group has reached the point where it is necessary to have a web site where women can find out about joining with other women in recovery to enhance their already powerful 12-Step Recovery programs. One member who is skilled at developing web sites agreed to create a site that helps women find other women working for peace and serenity through the 12-Step process, and to do this work at a very economical rate. Another member is making her office available to the original group to use a mailing address and as a facility for outreach to new WSS groups forming around the country. Funds are being used to develop and maintain the web site and to mail new meeting packets out to women wanting to start similar groups in their part of the country.
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