“How I Escaped My Mental Prison”

“Here, you wake up, you broaden your mental horizons and see you are worth so much more, that you can live drug free”

Girl in mirror

“Now I can look at myself in the mirror and recognize myself” – Photo by Tiago Bandeira on Unsplash

Aurora[1] is a young resident in Dianova Spain’s centre for minors (Zandueta, Navarra region). She’s been using drugs since she was 11. Just like many other teenagers, she started with cigarettes before she tried cannabis and then more dangerous substances. She kept on using drugs until her relationships deteriorated and up to the point of almost losing herself. Now, thanks to the programme offered by Dianova, she can look at her life, and her future, with different, brighter eyes.

When did you start using drugs?

The first time I smoked a cigarette I was 11 years old. I didn’t even know how to smoke, wouldn’t inhale. The summer I was 13, I tried pot and I liked the feeling, it was so cool. Then came the pills. When I was 14, my friend and I looked up on the Internet and social media which pills we found most interesting.

We found someone who dealt with that kind of business. We met at a party in a night club and he sold us a couple of pills for 15 euros. At that time I lied to my mother and asked her for money to buy a pair of leggings.

I got home without them and she asked me what I had done with the money. I lied and told her I spent it on videogames. That day I took half a pill of ecstasy mixed with LSD. I had never tried either of those drugs before. The effects lasted from four to six intense hours. I was in constant movement and feeling totally euphoric.

From that moment, I smoked every day, it even became a routine. I wasn’t afraid of other drugs anymore, like cocaine. I was at a friend’s house the first time I tried coke. Someone offered me some and I accepted. That’s when I got a taste for it.


Zandueta’s educational and therapeutic centre for minors (Navarra region, Spain) – Photo: Dianova España, licence: CC

Do you believe you were taking risks at that time?

Yes, there were many risks. At the night club there were always a lot of people. They could have put something in my cup or I might not be aware that I was crossing the line.That is, I had no boundaries.


When you’re high, there are things you just want to do and you excuse that behaviour without a blink. It’s like you’re in a mental prison. You don’t feel right even when you had a great time. You regret all the things you did when you forgot about those boundaries. But when you’re out of it, you feel embarrased and regretful.  If you have a weaker mind or have a tendency to depression, these hangovers can deteriorate your mental health.

What about your family and relationships?

Another problem is distancing from your family. The relationship gets worse, you hurt your parents and the people who love you. I used to get home sloppy, disheveled, looking like a real zombie and my parents could see that. I had heated arguments whenever I got home wasted. I yelled, and threw and broke things. The door of my room is totally wrecked. My parents took away all the latches because I was hurting myself with them.

Drug use deteriorated my physical state. I didn’t recognize the person I saw in the mirror. I abandoned myself, I didn’t care about myself, I didn’t want to take care of myself. I rejected myself because I didn’t like the way I looked. You get way more tired when you’re high most of the time. You’re on adrenalin for hours and hours and after that your whole body aches.


You lose a lot of habits, you break with all the routines: nutrition, sleep, school. You don’t go to school anymore. You give up. You drop. You fail. You distance yourself from all your friends and make  drug-addict friends only. If you have true friends, they’ll tell you not to use drugs, but at the end of the day, they get tired of telling you the same thing and they just leave. I would constantly tell my friends, “I gotta go score”, meaning I need to find drugs! Eventually they get tired of you.

How do you feel in Zandueta’s programme? 

At first you feel terrible, you’re jonesing. But little by little you get better. Now I feel good, like myself again. I’m getting to know myself and making the most of myself. The day begins and I’m myself. It ends and I’m still myself without being under the effects of drugs. It’s very rewarding.

I keep my mind active and in a positive state. Without drugs you’re no longer in this depressing and negative loop with thoughts of hurting yourself and criticizing yourself and your life constantly.

You can have a bad day or week or month due to this and that, just like anybody else, but it doesn’t become the general picture of your life. You can feel good for a really long time, wake up one morning feeling happy with no reason, going to bed happy and spend the day happy. And the following day, you wake up and feel you slept well and are well rested.


I knew I had to put the brakes on my addictions and get my life back on track, and for me this has been possible in Zandueta. I’ve gotten myself away from drugs. I’ve gotten away from toxic relationships. They don’t care about me, they never asked how I’m doing. So I’ve lost touch with them.

I’m really happy because I’ve been able to leave my mental prison. I feel free. It’s me who’s in control of my thoughts and not the drugs. It fills me with pride. I can live without using. I can make my decisions, and not drugs.

A day of skiing

A day of skiing in the Pyrenees for the minors of the Zandueta centre – photo: Dianova España, licence: CC

What physical and psychological aspects do you see change during the programme?

When you stop using drugs you tend to get fat. But here we don’t have access to the pantry, which is good because we can’t take the food we want.

There are sports programs and you can go to the gym, the pool or go hiking… We handle anxiety with sport and healthy habits instead of eating.

I used to have dark circles and bags under my eyes but after a while I got rid of them eventually. My face is brighter and now I can look at myself in the mirror and recognize myself.


The activities offered by the Center, educational activities, leisure time and so on, it helps you to see you can do stuff without using. Now I’m able to laugh again. The program also helps and teaches you to work on family relationships. Now I value my family so much more and, for me, their support is a very important part of my programme. I need them by my side. I need them to spend time with me. I might have lost some friends, but I’ll always have my family.

In the Center they’re also helping me to find something I’d like to do in the future, to get a qualification, and they help us with job and academic training and our future plans.

I feel very good at the Center, happy and proud to work on myself. I’m really thankful to the educators because they’ve taken good care of me, they listen to me and they make me feel sheltered and accompanied. I know the team do whatever they can to help us or, at least, they try to. You are given so many opportunities, which helps teenagers a lot. I can see they like the work they’re doing, and this gives me hope.

[1] Fictitious name