WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) — It’s a famous last name. You’ve probably heard of the Wahlbergs. Jim Wahlberg is one of the older brothers of Mark and Donnie Wahlberg. He’s been featured on their reality show “Wahlburgers.”

Jim battled addiction starting when he was just a kid. He’s now the executive director of the Mark Wahlberg Youth Foundation. It focuses on helping inner-city youth succeed. KSN’s Bret Buganski spoke to Jim one-on-one about what drives him to help people overcome addiction.

An interview with Jim Wahlberg

Bret Buganski: “You started using at a very, very young age. Can you tell me a little bit about that, Jim?”

Jim Wahlberg: “I was like the old song goes, ‘I was looking for love in all the wrong places.’ I was from a family of nine children, and my mom and dad worked constantly, you know, to keep a roof over our head, to keep food in our bellies. And so, I wasn’t getting the attention I was looking for at home, so I started to look for it outside of the house. You know, the people that were doing the wrong things, the kids that were into the wrong stuff were only too happy to give me the attention I was looking for. From the age of 12, I was in and out of jail, homeless, sleeping anywhere and everywhere. I lived under a porch at one point for quite a while, in and out of prison.”

Bret Buganski: “You consider yourself in long-term recovery. And for someone who’s never been addicted before, how would you describe what you felt like, and what was going on inside your head?”

Jim Wahlberg: “It’s such an easy thing to describe, to be really honest with you. So here it is, is that a person that doesn’t have addiction problems or doesn’t understand addiction, looks at somebody who’s addicted, and they see whatever it is they’re using as the thing that’s tearing them apart. The addict actually sees that same substance as the thing that’s holding them together, right? And the thought of facing life without it, is almost unbearable.”

Bret Buganski: “And it ended up having you on the wrong side of the law several different times and there was certainly a breaking point when you ended up breaking into a police officer’s home.”

Jim Wahlberg: “Yeah, I mean, I was, I was, had already done five years in state prison. And I got out and I was on the fast track to really dying. I was using as much as I could get my hands on, and I did. I broke into a Boston cop’s house while I was in a blackout, and I woke up in the police station, didn’t even remember why I was there. I did get an opportunity to speak to that gentleman several years later and, to apologize and to thank him for not, you know, forcing them to give me a life sentence.”

Bret Buganski: “And that’s not always the case, Jim, because for the longest time, if you were an addict, you were considered weak, and it wasn’t looked like an illness, or it didn’t get perceived as an illness, but it seems as if times have changed. Do you agree with that notion?”

Jim Wahlberg: “People are recognizing that people that are completely innocent in this whole thing, right, that went to the doctor with an injury and were prescribed their medication, you know, that had never had any problems with substances before in their life, were now fully addicted, and now have moved on to different drugs in order to feed that habit.”

Bret Buganski: “In the last few years, it seems as if you have multiple states filing lawsuits against the biggest manufacturers of opioids. But yet to this day, we’re still in this opioid epidemic. People are still dying. I guess, people are still finding ways to get the drugs, so it seems as if we still have a long way to go.”

Jim Wahlberg: “This epidemic was created by men in business suits. Right? And then when they got shut down, it left this big hole, right, and, and our friends from the southern border were more than happy to file that hole, right? And now what they’re doing is, they’re filling it not just with heroin, but now all kinds of synthetic drugs and they’re filling it with fentanyl.”

Bret Buganski: “There’s resources out there for help, but when you’re an addict, you probably don’t want to ask for help and then you have the pandemic where we were separated from our family and friends, and I can only imagine how tough that might be.”

Jim Wahlberg: “Yeah, well I mean, here’s the thing. There is help available, right? But we’re talking about the most powerful, potent, and addictive substances on the face of the planet. If you call your neighbors and tell them that your child has cancer, your neighbor brings you a casserole, they cut your grass, they wash your car, they embrace you, they love you, you know, they set up a GoFundMe for you, right? You tell your neighbor, ‘My child is addicted to drugs,’ right? They pull their shades down, lock their doors, they avoid you like the plague, they tell their kids to stay away from your kids and from you, right? Like somehow this is contagious, right? Listen, we need to love each other, man. This can happen to anyone. You know, we’re all walking around with these phones in our hands, right? We always have a phone in our hand. Take the time to call somebody and let them know how important their recovery is to you. You might be saving that person’s life that day and not even know it.”

Mark Wahlberg Youth Foundation