‘I suffer, but the landscape hypnotizes me.’
Luciano Leoni overcomes challenges which the mountain dishes out as he recalls how he beat a drug habit. ‘My life began at 40’ he explains. ‘I’ve been born again, for me, everything is new. I have rediscovered myself.’
‘I no longer had the strength to live on the street, in the cold, sleeping wrapped in cardboard, malnourished, my stomach no longer able to digest food. I weighed 38 kilos’. While eating a snack and sipping morning coffee in the hostal Cases de La Guingueta d’Àneu,Luciano Leoni recalls the most painful times of his life. Six years have now passed since he injected his last dose of heroin in a garage at San Cosme, in El Prat de Llobregat. It’s in the past now but he doesn’t ever forget. During the route today he will walk from La Guingueta to Estaon rivers recalling that time in his life -how he survived the world of drugs.
‘My life began at 40, I’ve been born again, for me everything is new. I have rediscovered myself,’ he says excitedly as he starts to walk. The first kilometers are tiring, all uphill. La Guingueta is at 900 meters and the route heads up to the 2,200 passing through the village of Dorve. There are quite a few houses in ruins and here, and the odd well maintained vegetable patch. The only permanent resident is a shepherd. A deep (water) spring at Dorve calls for a stop. ‘At the age of 14 I started to take drugs, I think to get the attention of my parents, but it didn’t work.’ says Luciano who will turn 44 in September. ‘These ascents are hard but the descents are worse for the knees. I enjoy it and I suffer, but the landscape hypnotizes me, it gives me energy and a sense of well-being.’ says the Italian from Arese, near Milan. His father runs a printing press in Arese..
‘In Italy I spent 200 to 300 Euro a day on heroin and cocaine, I didn’t have money problems because I worked in the print shop. If I needed more money, my father, without suspecting anything, would give it to me. When I finally told him, he wept.’ The route continues to rise, but now the meadows give way to a cool forest. When he was only 20 years old he began a detox treatment. ‘In the morning I was taking methadone, in the afternoon back to the to drug.’ Aware of the damage that he was doing to his family, aged 29 he left Italy and came to Barcelona. During the day he worked as a waiter, at night he went in search of a fix. This didn’t last long and after a few months he quit his job and became fully immersed in the drug scene. How was the heroine funded? ‘ I stole custom-made clothing from luxury shops. I had a series of regular customers who told me what they wanted and I got it for half price. I went 15 times to the jail La Model. Little by little he was deteriorating, sleeping in cardboard boxes, and then at the airport. That was his home for a few years because of the proximity to Sant Cosme. ‘I spent the last few months in the garage of drug traffickers, a family of gypsies who welcomed me and took care of me. They fed me and gave me drugs. They even told me they would pay for me to go to a detox Center.’ ‘
One day he collapsed in the street and the police took him to the Bellvitge hospital where he spent three months. He had hit rock bottom, he weighed 38 pounds. Things couldn’t get worse. The route continues to rise up to the top of the Clot de la Calba, some 2,221 meters. Here the signposts are confusing and, despite warnings from other mountaineers on how easy it is to get lost, the group goes the wrong way. Luciano, Mamadou, Tocris, are with the organizer of the initiative, Ignasi de Juan of the Fundació Formació Treball (FIT). They check the map and after some hesitation, get back on course. They start the descent. Luciano’s pain in his knees intensifies but he soldiers on. ‘In the hospital, they put me in touch with Caritas and suggested I go to a detox Center. I accepted. I spent three years there, it was very hard. I had always lived outside of the ‘normal,’ so it was very difficult to accept a routine. The next step was to share with three others an apartment managed by Caritas, and a year later I got a job at the Fundació FIT. Caritas helped me with personal development, they got to know me, and at the FIT they showed me my ability to work. I was working sorting clothes from containers for Roba Amiga, and to dealing with customers… They twice renewed my contract and then gave me a letter of recommendation ‘. At this stage he won some self-esteem. He saw that he could be independent and get to where he wanted to go in life. ‘I’d spent a lifetime not knowing what I wanted and in my recovery process, I realized that I also could be useful to other people. Sometimes I have acted as a link between a social worker and a drug addict.’
It’s a year since he started living with his partner. In September, will start work with Caritas and continue studying to take the title of ‘Social Integrator’. He dedicates his free time to volunteer work, because he feels indebted, but mostly because he likes to help people who are having a hard time. At about 5 PM they are close to Estaon. The last steps are the hardest, the rain complicates the trek and Luciano’s knees are yelling. With a lot of effort, he manages to finish this stage.
‘I have suffered, but I’ve also enjoyed the mountain and the scenery, they hook you. …’
Luciano after going out of The Guingueta on Wednesday10th of July. In in total he completed 5 stages of the trek.