A REFORMED drug addict who was once held at gunpoint has called for more support to help people into further education and transform their lives.

Stuart Patterson who escaped a life of gang violence and crime to found a flourishing community church in Easterhouse, says that more needs to be done across the city to help those sliding into a life of crime.

The 53-year-old has spoken out after completing his second degree on Friday - a masters in digital journalism from Strathclyde University – a far cry from his days blighted by drink and drugs.

Stuart says without the help offered to him he would have ended up dead on the streets.

Glasgow Times: Stuart at his second graduationStuart at his second graduation (Image: Supplied)

He said: “It is okay saying that people need to have a desire to better themselves, but some people are just dealt a bad hand in life and before they know it their life has slipped into a maelstrom of despair.

“I feel that more needs to be done to reach these young men and women, to offer them the chance to build something, to give them a purpose.

“We need better support networks, more access to education and more companies willing to give people a chance. Firms like Timpson’s are great examples of those who are keen to try and help those going through rehabilitation, but we need more of them.”

We previously reported that the dad-of-three knows what it is like to be at his lowest ebb. He went from being offered a scholarship at prestigious Glasgow school Hutchesons' Grammar to dropping out of education at 15 and sliding into a life gripped by drink and drugs.

He admits picking up his second parchment last week was a moment he often thought he would never see.

Glasgow Times: Stuart at his first graduationStuart at his first graduation (Image: Supplied)

Stuart added: “I’m proof that anyone can turn themselves around if they are given an opportunity. I never imagined I’d be accepted into university let alone graduate with distinction, and then earn a second degree.

“I don’t think of myself as an example to others, but if people can look at the hurdles I’ve overcome and believe they can too, I’m buoyed by that. It’s never too late and the past doesn’t have to define anyone’s future.”  

As a teenager, summers for Stuart involved fighting on the streets, smoking cannabis and drinking cheap tonic wine as he tried to fit in.

He left school as soon as he could and got a job as a butcher soon he was taking drugs before eventually finding himself in prison.

On his release, the Paisley man found a new role on a building site - and a love of heroin that resulted in a gang holding a gun to his back and threatening to pull the trigger.  

The moment that almost cost him his life proved to be a wake-up call and Stuart, who was then 27, knew something had to give. 

Glasgow Times:

He explained: “If I hadn’t gone to rehab when I did, it’s pretty simple – I would be dead now, I have no doubt about that.

“I was given a scholarship to a private school but started smoking cannabis and before long I was tempted by harder and harder drugs. The gangs I would hang around with became like family to me and I became stuck in a spiral of addiction - but I needed help to quit.”

READ MORE: Fight to get Glasgow grandad home after cancer shock

Stuart says he was fortunate that his mum persuaded him to take to a local clergyman and he was able to offer him the inspiration to turn things around – but believes not enough people are able to open a similar door.

He said: “That’s what needs to change. There needs to be more ways of getting to people when they are still able to be saved – and while they still want to save themselves.

“The only thing I cared about was getting £10 to score drugs and I know there are so many other young men and women who feel the same. If we can just open more avenues to them at an earlier stage, I know we can turn so many lives around.

“Personally, I found God and started to think about how I could help others rather than myself – and I’ve never stopped.”

Stuart says graduating last week has given him the perfect boost as he approaches one of the busiest times of the year for his church.

He added: “People think Easterhouse has a terrible reputation for crime, but it’s one of the best places around. Only this week I was going round the doors with another guy from the church handing our advent calendars and seeing which homes might need a little help or support in the weeks ahead.

“What struck me was the amount of people offering help back to us. Easterhouse has its problems, but it has real heart.”