Jim Wahlberg Shares How God Saved Him From a Life of Addiction
By Cooper Dowd, Staff Writer
Author and filmmaker Jim Wahlberg, older brother to Hollywood actor Mark Wahlberg, recently published a memoir that tells the story of God’s redemption, which brought him out of addiction and a life of crime.
The memoir is titled The Big Hustle and documents Wahlberg’s early life in and out of prison and his eventual conversion. Wahlberg, who grew up in Dorchester, Massachusetts—with his eight siblings—says that his family life was dysfunctional.
The life of rebellion started at a young age for Wahlberg. As a 12-year-old, he found himself already experimenting with drugs and alcohol. The young boy took to the streets, running away from home, and ended up as a ward of the state. Walhberg spent his early years as a teenager in the foster care system and juvenile detention before, at age 17, he was sentenced to Massachusetts State Prison for armed robbery.
Unfortunately, just six months after his initial release from prison, Wahlberg was facing six to nine years in jail for burglarizing a police officer’s home. Although he began to seek help to reduce his sentence, Wahlberg told The Christian Post he did not want to change.
“I quietly began attending some self-help groups and things of that nature to pretend like I had changed,” Wahlberg recalled. “I was just running a game, just trying to create the illusion that I was trying to become rehabilitated. In reality, I wanted to get out and steal and consume as many drugs and alcohol as I could. I didn’t think sobriety was an option for me.”
While serving time in the Massachusetts State Prison, the priest offered Wahlberg the opportunity to work as a janitor in the chapel. Walhberg accepted the offer without hesitation.
“I saw this as another opportunity to hustle someone,” Wahlberg conceded. “I knew the priest smoked cigarettes, so I figured it was a chance for me to steal some cigarettes and access his phone. I saw it as a chance to take advantage of him.”
Unbeknownst to Wahlberg, one of his duties included cleaning the chapel after Sunday mass, which forced him to attend. Despite wanting nothing to do with the Church or God, Wahlberg notes the miraculous means by which God used Wahlberg’s selfish motives to bring him to faith.
“That was never part of my plan; I did not want to attend any kind of mass or really have anything to do with the Church,” Wahlberg said. “I thought I was hustling the priest; turns out, he was hustling me.”
One day, Mother Teresa visited the Massachusetts State Prison chapel.
“I didn’t know who that was,” Wahlberg admitted, “but the second she walked into the room, I knew there was something different about her. She spoke of love and mercy. She gave us hope; she let us know there was nothing too big for God.”
“It was a profound experience,” Wahlberg continued. “I feel like God said, ‘I’ve tried to lead you in the right direction many times and you just won’t do it. So I’m going to send my number one assistant and it’s going to change you.’ And it did change me in a very powerful way. I went to the priest and said, ‘I want to learn more about God. I want to learn more about my faith.'”
Wahlberg notes that meeting Mother Teresa was a defining moment in his path to faith. Although Wahlberg said that sobriety never seemed like a viable option, in 1988, after multiple positive role models and therapy programs, Wahlberg became sober.
He understood that winning the battle for sobriety and finally being free of addiction came from God’s grace.
“I finally understood that there was a loving God, not just a god that was out to get me and punish me,” Wahlberg said. “Once I understood the beauty of faith and the fact that Jesus gave it all up specifically for me, my life changed. I think if I’d understood that earlier, I would have been spared a lot of pain and suffering.”
Wahlberg’s life mirrored the biblical account of the woman at the well in John 4. Wahlberg’s new commitment to the faith meant that he wanted to share his testimony of redemption.
“My experiences give me more ammunition to reach people who have been through similar circumstances; it gives my message a little more depth and weight than someone that learned answers and solutions from a book,” Wahlberg said. “The goal of sharing my story is to let others know that nothing is too big for God. He took the mess of my life, all of my shortcomings and ugliness, and turned it into an asset to glorify Him.”
“God saved me for a reason,” Walhberg added. “The best part is, it has nothing to do with me. It’s all by the grace of God.”
Wahlberg published his memoir with the prayer that it provides hope through God to those who are struggling.
“I want others to know there is no situation, no difficulty they can’t overcome with God,” Wahlberg said. “It doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy. But when you have that undeniable feeling of the presence of God in your life and heart, it’s life-changing.”
“God loves you and He can pull you out of the field,” Wahlberg added. “No matter what situation you’re facing, it’s not too late.”
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