Note that what Paul says here is in the present tense, not the past. He is describing his “now” need for the gospel, not his “then” need. This is so hopeful for a sinner like me.
“Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners–of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life.” ~ 1 Tim. 1:15-16