A CORK man who last month appeared on a chat show speaking of overcoming years of heroin addiction will today graduate with a Masters in Criminology.
Mr James Leonard suffered from years of addiction after becoming introduced to heroin during a prison sentence at the age of 21.
Last month, the Cork man appeared on RTÉ's The Tommy Tiernan Show where he spoke to the host of the difficulties he faced during his time as an addict, saying "the craic left me, there was no more craic, there was no more bonding [it was] very isolating".
As his addiction took hold, he moved on from smoking the drug and began using it intravenously, resorting to theft to fund his drug use.
Mr Leonard lost a substantial amount of weight, telling Mr Tiernan he went down to 9 or 10 stone, and said he looked "shocking", with a gaunt appearance and "yellow-ish" skin.
Despite trying recovery multiple times, including by attending treatment centres, Mr Leonard said that for many years "I could never imagine myself without using substances".
He overdosed several times during this period, Mr Leonard told the show's host, but after a particular overdose in 2012 he finally contacted Merchants Quay Ireland, a charity which provides a wide range of services to those who are experiencing homeless or addiction problems, and through the help of the charity, he began a detox programme.
The help he received from Merchant's Quay Ireland allowed him to believe that "the normal life, the job, the education, the stable relationship, stable accommodation, a car" were "attainable goals"-- and he began to build a new life for himself.
He returned to education, completing a computer course in Cork's College of Commerce before succesfully completing an undergraduate in Youth and Community Work at University College Cork.
He then went on to study a Masters in Criminology at UCC-- and today, 8 years on from contacting Merchant's Quay Ireland, will join hundreds of other students in the college's graduation ceremony, where he will receive a First Class Honours degree.