How a talk with Mother Teresa and Jesus helped save a Wahlberg brother from addiction

Jim Wahlberg says pandemic can be chance for addicts to come clean

COVID is making things way more complicated for people with addiction issues. The isolation and lack of relationships is causing more people to reach for drugs and alcohol.

ORLANDO, Fla. – If you close your eyes and listen to Jim Wahlberg, his voice sounds very familiar.

He has that unmistakable Eastern New England twang that pegs him as a Bostonian from the jump.

And yes, he is one of those Wahlbergs, a family most people know from Hollywood, most notably, his famous brother, Mark Wahlberg.

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But what many don’t know is that this Wahlberg brother was troubled from the time he was a kid and turned to drugs and alcohol at an early age. Jim says he had his first drink when he was 8 years old and it was one hustle after another from there.

He hopes by sharing his story in his new book, “The Big Hustle,” people will overcome their shame and get help.

A meeting with Mother Theresa helped change Jim Wahlberg's life.

Jim joined Matt Austin and Ginger Gadsden from his Fort Lauderdale home for this week’s edition of Florida’s Fourth Estate to talk about being in recovery for 32 years now, and what it took to get him there to begin with.

Jim says he knows during the pandemic that people with addictions are suffering.

He said people who suffer from addiction or mental illness are fragile.

“Recovery is connection. It’s love. It’s friendship," he said. "Addiction is the opposite. It’s isolation. It’s loneliness. It’s depression. We’ve been forced into a depressive state.”

In a pandemic, when you’re forced to isolate, he says it has done a number on many who turn drugs and alcohol for escape.

He encourages those struggling to reach out and not be ashamed to ask for help.

At the age of 22, Jim found himself in prison for the second time for breaking into a police officer’s home.

Jim says part of what contributed to his childhood problems was that his family was poor.

He says his dad worked really hard, got lucky enough to put a down payment on a house in a decent neighborhood, but they were on food stamps.

He recalls how he would go to the store and wait for the older cashier’s shift to begin because he wasn’t embarrassed to use the food stamps around him. He did not want his friends to see him in the store.

“My dad worked every day of his life,” he explained. “We needed help. We needed assistance.”

An emotional moment when Jim Wahlberg talks about how hard his dad worked and Ginger relates because she is reminded of her own father.

“As men, we’re sort of taught that we have to be strong, we have to provide and have to be all of those things. But there is more to being a man than all of those things,” he said. “We also have to be loving, kind and pointing people in the right direction.”

If you want to hear how Mother Teresa pointed him in the right direction and how introducing his wife to Jesus earned him some serious brownie points, download the podcast.

Florida’s Fourth Estate looks at everything from swampy politics to a fragile environment and even the crazy headlines that make Florida the craziest state in the Union.

Ginger Gadsden and Matt Austin use decades of experience as journalists to dissect the headlines that impact Florida. Each week they have a guest host who helps give an irreverent look at the issues impacting the Sunshine State. Big influencers, like Attorney John Morgan, renowned Florida journalists and the scientists protecting Florida’s ecosystem, can often be found as guests.

Look for new episodes every Friday on iTunes, Sticher or wherever you listen to your favorite podcasts.

Listen to the full episode of  Florida’s Fourth Estate on iTunes here or on Sticher here.

About the Author:

Ginger Gadsden joined the News 6 team in June 2014 as an anchor/reporter. She currently co-anchors the 4 p.m. 5:30 p.m. and the 7 p.m. newscasts.