Jim Wahlberg, the brother of actor Mark Wahlberg, had a plan in mind when a priest offered him a janitorial job in the chapel of the Massachusetts State Prison.
“I saw this as another opportunity to hustle someone,” Wahlberg said. “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.”
Growing up in what he described as a dysfunctional home, Wahlberg — the middle of nine kids — began experimenting with drugs and alcohol at a young age. After running away from home, he found himself a ward of the state by age 12. He dropped out of high school at 15 and spent his teenage years rotating between foster care and stints in juvenile detention.
By 22 years old, Wahlberg already had been to prison twice. At 17, he was sentenced to Massachusetts State Prison for armed robbery. Six months after his release, he was arrested for burglarizing a police officer’s home. Facing six to nine years in prison, Wahlberg decided to do anything within his power to avoid serving the full sentence.
“I quietly began attending some self-help groups and things of that nature to pretend like I had changed,” he recalled. “I was just running 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.”
After taking on the job at the local chapel, Wahlberg was informed that part of the job was cleaning after services, meaning he would have to attend mass on occasion. As a result, he became a devout Catholic and now is making films about overcoming addiction.
“My relationship with God is the priority,” he said. “I know if I make that first in my life, then there’s nothing I can’t do. I’ve tried recovery without God, and what I ended up was no drinks, no drugs, no happiness, just miserable.”
Jim stars in a new show on the A&E network that follow’s his brother Paul’s challenges of running a burger joint that touts the family name.
–Alan Goforth | Metro Voice