TODAY | January 31, 2014
>>> meanwhile, would you be able to walk away from a job that paid you millions of dollars if you felt the drive for money was harming you. "the new york times" met a man who called the life he abannened.
>> reporter: the kos scar nominated film the wolf of wall street , tells the story of sex, drugs and money. lots of money.
>> at the tender age of 22 i moved to the only place that could fit my high-minded ambition.
>> reporter: this is a similarly alarming story.
>> i wanted a billion dollars.
>> reporter: he was also 22 when he went to wall street to satisfy his money-fueled ambition.
>> i would think about my bonus every day. every day for a year i would think about what is it going to be, how much is it going to be, who's going to get paid more than me, am i going to be paid more than this guy.
>> reporter: he recently shared his story with the "new york times," an essay he only wishes co-have read when his life started spiraling out of control as a student at columbia university .
>> i started drinking. i started doing a lot of drugs. i had had this sort of chip on my shoulder.
>> you were even suspended at one point.
>> yeah, i was suspended for burglary.
>> reporter: polk beat his addiction to drugs and drinking but another craving soon took over, as he rose through the ranks at a big bank, then an elite hedge fund . he wanted more money. lots of money.
>> money wasn't actually about the things that you could buy. it was sort of a way of keeping score.
>> for you, was it an addiction?
>> i mean it was absolutely an addiction. in my last year on wall street , my bonus was $3.6 million. and i was angry because it wasn't big enough.
>> i remember kind of thinking like, no, don't do that! you know, just leave. i don't want you to stay here another year.
>> reporter: with help from his girlfriend, now-wife kirstin thompson , polk began to realize his latest addiction was tearing him up inside.
>> i made in a single year more than my mom made her whole life. i knew that wasn't fair. that wasn't right.
>> reporter: so at the age of 30, he walked away from it all.
>> it was one of the hardest things that i ever did.
>> i'm so proud of him. so proud of him. i think it took a ton of courage.
>> i was lucky.
>> reporter: four years later the thrill ofmakering money is now replaced by the thrill of serving others.
>> it's really hard to stay on a healthy diet .
>> reporter: he's started a non-profit called groceryships, which gives families scholarships for healthy food.
>> vegetables and fruit shakes and salads. that may not be the most delicious things in the world but they definitely fill you up.
>> reporter: the goal is to help families make better choices.
>> do i get the chips that's $1 or do i get the tomatoes that's $2.99 a pound?
>> i guess i just don't think it's right in such a rich country that there are so many people that are poor and hungry and i'd rather spend my time working with them than trying to make more money for myself.
>> reporter: and now another chapter. polk and his wife are expecting their first child. no longer a wolf on wall street , he aims to be a sheep who has shed his wolf's clothing. for "today," joe fryar, nbc news, los angeles .
>> great example.
>> it is an interesting essay if you haven't had a chance to read it. real thought provoking.