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  • Writer's pictureESSEX FREE PRESS

From kicking addiction to graduating with a Masters in Social Work

Windsor Life Centre graduate now dedicated to helping others

by Sylene Argent

Last week, the Essex Free Press featured an article that highlighted what the Windsor Life Centre provides for women undergoing treatment for various addictions. This article features the success of one of its earliest graduates, Jade Piper, who is eager to help others.

Jade Piper credits the staff at Windsor Life Centre for helping her turn her life around. Eight years ago, she entered the addictions program not knowing who she was or what she wanted out of life. Now, she is celebrating her recent graduation from the University of Windsor, where she earned a Masters in Social Work, and is excited to follow through on her dream of helping others.

  In her late teenage years, and into her early twenties, Piper found herself in the throw of a really terrible addiction to substances. “It took me to places I never thought I would go, and wound-up doing things I really never really thought I would do,” she said.

  After many failed attempts at treatment centres in Nova Scotia, where she is from originally, Piper found her way to Windsor Life Centre in June of 2013, at the age of 24. “I was met with so much love. It was really a haven for me as I began my new recovery journey and healing.”

  She was in the program for just over a year. The treatment centre provided her the opportunity to reset. Windsor Life Centre, “Gave me the second chance that I knew I deserved, but was having a hard time finding back in Nova Scotia.”

  Piper was the fourth resident to tap into the programs offered at Windsor Life Centre. She described the experience as very holistic, as she was able to undergo one-on-one counselling, learn about nutrition, participate in work out sessions, and focus on spirituality. Through the treatment, she was able to reconcile with her family and build on her self-respect.

  “Windsor Life Centre was definitely the catalyst for me to chase after my purpose and passions again, and allowed me the opportunity to dream again, and become basically a not just a contributing member of society, but a happy, joyful, healthy, balanced person.”

  There is a desperation that needs to happen in order for someone to seek help from an addiction, and that is what got Piper to make the decision to walk through the doors at Windsor Life Centre.

  At first, she said she was very resistant, due to years of having her guard up and not being able to trust. There were points, early on in her treatment, where she battled on whether or not she would stay there, because she said she was in a place of low self-worth. The structure, however, kept her and fellow program attendees busy and focused on the treatment.

Overtime, incremental change began to add up and Piper started believing what the program staff members were telling her; that she was amazing, talented, and gifted. Before she knew it, she was singing and playing guitar and speaking her story all over the place.

  In September of 2014, Piper officially graduated from the program, but was able to stay on with Windsor Life Centre to participate in a six-month internship. Through this opportunity, she was able to work with the support staff. She was then offered a job as the Program Assistant and a support staff member, which she did for around a year. During this time, she lived onsite in staff housing, which provided her the best foundation to move forward and succeed.

  She began studying at the University of Windsor in September of 2016. She said she loved school and not only obtained her undergrad, but recently graduated with her Masters in Social Work. In that time, she participated in a lot of extracurricular activities, such as the volunteer internship program and the Liberty Project, and became a research assistant.

  “I made the most of my university experience, because I was like 27 when I went back to school,” she said.

  During her Masters’ placement, Piper was able to be the MSW Social Work Intern for the Lancers Recover Program, from January to April. She said she spent five-years at the University and noted there was no program for students who struggle with addictions. A professor started the Lancer Recover Program, knowing there were recovery programs in the US at colleges and universities. There were none in Canada at that time. The University of British Columbia was the first to launch a recovery program in 2019 in Canada, and the University of Windsor was the second.  

  The mission of the Lancers Recover Program is to provide support for students in or seeking recovery, while they are pursuing their academic, professional, and personal goals

  The Lancers Recover Program launched virtually in May of 2020, because it was known students were struggling and isolating.

  It is just about advocating and normalizing the recovery identity in higher education, Piper said of the purpose of the program. In addition, peer support meetings are offered. In her time with the program, she also provided supportive sessions for those with a variety of needs.

  “We have seen pretty great success since launching,” Piper said, adding funding is being sought to hire a part-time Program Director in September for the Lancer Recover Program, a role Piper hopes to fill. In addition, Piper got a full-time job as a clinical therapist, which she is excited to take on.

  “Windsor Life Centre changed my life,” Piper said, noting the program gave her the tools she needed to heal and grow. “I went in there as a shell of a person, not knowing who Jade was.”

  Her personal experience can help show others struggling with addictions that real change is possible and tangible. She shares her story today to help reduce the stigma around addictions.

  “There are people, organizations, and services out there that are ready and willing and able to help and support individuals in their greatest time of need, and that is what I want to do,” she said.  

  “I am super proud of her, Julie Hunter, Executive Director of Windsor Life Centre, said of Piper. “She is lovely. She is pouring back into a community she cares about.”

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