MARQUETTE, Mich. (WJMN) – Jim Wahlberg is the Executive Director of the Mark Wahlberg Youth Foundation. He is a recovering addict. He has written, produced, and directed films addressing addiction.

When it comes to addiction and recovery, Wahlberg said he’s no different than anybody else.

“I didn’t think it was possible. I didn’t think I was worthy of that gift of recovery. That was the message that was permeating in my mind as I was sitting in prison going to these twelve step. I was going, “what a great program for these people.” but it’s never going to work for me. Which I think is the ultimate feeling that most people have when they try to make this step to try to do something about their problem. We feel unworthy of the things these people are talking about. The great things that are happening now in their lives. How do you face a day without a drink or a drug? The thought is just mind-boggling because the truth of the matter is that the, ‘general public’ if you will, looks at it like, “you just need to stop doing that, and it’s going to be okay. What you’re telling a drug addict or an alcoholic is just stop breathing. You’re telling them that all they need to do is stop using the thing that you see as the most destructive thing in their life and they see as the glue holding their life together,” said Wahlberg.

He shared his story of change and what started him on the path to recovery.

“I was in state prison. I was doing six to nine years. I had already done five years, got out and came back and I had a brand new prison sentence. The only thing I knew was I didn’t want to do nine years. Because if I did nine years I’d be over thirty and I’d be prehistoric. So I started going to these meetings and I got a job working for the Catholic priest in the chapel. Not long after I started, he said to me we have a very special visitor coming in about two weeks. I said oh really, who’s that, father? He said, Mother Teresa is coming to this prison. I said, Oh that’s amazing… Who’s Mother Teresa? I was a good Catholic boy, sort of. I had no idea who she was, I had no idea who the President of the United States was probably at that point in my life probably, because at that point in my life I lived for my next drink and my next drug. Those were the only things that were important to me. How as I going to make that happen and how was I going to avoid the people that were looking for me to do it? There always seemed to be people looking for me for something I did. Whether it was the police or somebody that I somehow victimized, stole from, or whatever it was. That day came and she came to the prison and I had a very profound spiritual experience that day. For the first time I heard that I was more than the crimes I had committed. That I was a child of God. Things like that that I never heard before growing up. I always heard, God’s going to get you.” So it would be disingenuous of me to not talk about that part of my journey. But I don’t know that that has to necessarily be part of everybody’s journey. Not everybody has to have a future saint come and visit them. To me, in a different kind of way people in these twelve step meetings are saintly in their own rite. Because they lived this darkness themselves. They were shown the way out of it and it became the priority in their life. To not use a day at a time, and to grow a day at a time, but also to understand, they don’t get to keep this gift unless they give it away,” said Wahlberg.

Through Wahlberg’s film contributions, and public speaking engagements, he is working to start the conversation early with youth.

“We’re living in a time where young people are starting with the most dangerous drugs known to man. They’re starting there. They’re not progressing to it. They’re starting with the most dangerous drugs known to man. My view of the world as it relates to addiction has changed a lot over the years. And right now, my goals are simple. We gotta do whatever we can to make sure we don’t lose any more human beings. Nobody else has to die. So we can start there. If there’s breath, there’s hope. If there’s no breath, there’s no hope. People don’t have to do it that way I see it. The way I think it’s done. We have a tendency as human beings when something works for us, that’s it, that’s the path. And we want to share it with everybody. The truth of the matter is, is that there are many paths. This is the path that worked best for me. In the last ten years or so, my view of roads and solutions has broadened. But I still believe that all roads somehow leads to faith or whatever that is, and spirituality. Whatever that is for you.” said Wahlberg.

Wahlberg said it’s not always easy for parents to start a conversation with their children.

“I feel like sometimes parents think if they bring up the subject they are actually introducing the subject and may cause a problem. Communication and education are absolute keys to this thing. We need to be talking to our young people. Our last, in person event we had 10,000 kids and I had them bring up the house lights and I asked these young people, If you lost somebody to an overdose, please stand up. And 85% percent of the kids. We’re talking junior high school and and high school. 85% of the kids stood up,” said Wahlberg.

Wahlberg said a little more love and a little more kindness would go a long way. “I like to tell people if you have somebody that you love that’s in early recovery or struggles, call them, talk to them, communicate with them. Tell them how much their recovery means to you. and how important it is to you that they are in recovery and that they are growing, and they are getting better and healing. That goes a long way to encourage people to fight”