Debbie Ford Finds God in an Unlikely Place


Debbie Ford

I recently interviewed Debbie Ford, a best-selling author and internationally recognized expert in the field of personal transformation. She is founder of the Ford Institute for Integrative Coaching at JFK University, which provides professional training for people who want to lead extraordinary lives. Her books include Why Good People Do Bad Things, The Dark Side of the Light Chasers, The Best Year of Your Life, Spiritual Divorce and The Right Questions.

Here is my interview with Debbie.

It was 1983 and I was in my fourth drug treatment center. I had never made it past ten days the first three times. I’d get off drugs, feel great, think everything was wonderful, and I would leave. This time, around the tenth day, I was ready to leave again. Just like before, I thought everything was great. But underneath that feeling, I felt this terror that if I left, something really horrible was going to happen to me.

I didn’t know what to do, so I went into this very dirty, disgusting little bathroom, got down on my hands and knees, and prayed. I had read about the Twelve Steps and surrendering to a higher power, but I had never really had that experience. In my prayer, I asked to know God, and I asked for some kind of sign—something that would give me the courage to stay just one more day.

After five minutes or so, I started feeling a lightness come over me. All of a sudden, my resistance seemed to melt away. It was my first real spiritual experience—my consciousness shifted and I felt connected to something bigger than myself. At that moment, I knew I was supported and that I had the strength to stay and get the help I needed.

For the next eighteen days, I prayed in that bathroom at the same time every afternoon. Each time, I would be feeling both extremes—Everything’s great and I can leave and I’m scared to death to face whatever it is I need to deal with.

Every day, I would say the Third Step prayer from the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous: God, I offer myself to Thee—to build with me and to do with me as Thou wilt. Relieve me of the bondage of self, that I may better do Thy will. Take away my difficulties, that victory over them may bear witness to those I would help of Thy power, Thy love, and Thy way of life.

I love that line, Relieve me of the bondage of self. I thought, God, if I can be relieved of the bondage of my self, I would have the freedom to be anyone I ever wanted to be and do anything I ever wanted to do. That prayer led me to understand the difference between my lower self—my smaller, self-obsessed self—and my higher self. That bathroom is where I learned to know God not just intellectually, but spiritually, emotionally, and physically.

I’m happy to report that, for the next five years, I got down on my hands and knees and prayed every single day. I prayed to clear my mind, to feel that shift of consciousness, and to connect with God. I still love to pray that way. It takes me to a beautiful place of surrender.

About six months after successfully completing treatment, I was sitting in my car one day in front of the retail clothing store I owned at the time. I remember thinking that I could make a difference in the world, that I could help other people connect to God, to really know God at the deepest level. That was when I decided to be a teacher and writer. That realization led me to sell my business and move to California, where I went back to school at JFK University and enrolled in the consciousness studies program.

As I followed this path, I learned to trust my instincts about where I had to go, what I had to do, and what I needed to read. I started realizing that whenever I had the impulse to learn something or to go someplace, that that was God leading me. I decided that if I had to live in this world sober and drug-free, I was going to learn how to be happy—I was going to learn how to reach those higher states without drugs. I tried every kind of healing opportunity I could find, from Sufi and Buddhist retreats to fasts to rebirthing to chiropractic and acupuncture.

That learning served me well, because in 1994, while I was writing my first book, The Dark Side of the Light Chasers, I ended up going through a divorce. That experience led me to write my second book, Spiritual Divorce, which explores divorce as a catalyst for an extraordinary life. I realized when I was writing that book that it was my parents’ divorce that had made me so angry for so many years. In fact, I think that’s why I started doing drugs.

I had waited until I was thirty-eight years old to get married, thinking that if I was perfect enough, or if my partner was perfect enough, I wouldn’t do to my kids what had been done to me. Yet here I was, faced with the pain that I was going to do to my year-old son what I had vowed I would never do.

My own divorce led me deeper into prayer and into my relationship with the divine. I learned how to be even more trusting because I recognized that we don’t have the wisdom to be able to know what is in our best interests. The pain of my parents’ divorce had led me down a path that looked like self-destruction, yet ultimately I needed to bottom out so that I could expand my consciousness and open up to ideas, thoughts, and possibilities that I would have never been open to before.

The experiences that have given me the wisdom I now share in my books and seminars . . . well, let’s put it this way, I would have never chosen those experiences. In fact, I would have begged God not to give them to me: Do anything to me but don’t send me down those roads! But it’s the darkest roads that have given me the greatest light.

And that’s what I teach today—that we have to surrender our will to God’s will. A situation could look like the worst thing that could possibly happen to us, but ultimately, if it raises our consciousness and opens up new possibilities, it can wind up being a great thing. And then we can understand what Carl Jung meant when he said, “The gold is in the dark.”

Today, twenty-three years after I left that treatment center, I’ve trained over six hundred people in a teaching model that was birthed out of that experience, I’ve written five books that have been translated into twenty-six languages, and I’ve probably lectured to one hundred thousand people. And all the people that go through my trainings—many of whom have also written books and become teachers—affect thousands of other people themselves. So the ripple effect of that moment of awakening, when I dropped to my knees in that dirty little bathroom and prayed, has affected countless numbers of people.

After all these years, there’s no question in my mind that prayer works. I am certain that it will change your life, because when your consciousness changes, your life changes.


Through God’s Eyes: Finding Peace and Purpose in a Troubled World, is a road map for living a more peaceful, beautiful life. It’s the one book that explains how dozens of spiritual principles interact, how to weave them together into a cohesive worldview, and how to practically apply this spiritual wisdom to daily life.

Who will benefit from reading Through God’s Eyes?
Anyone who is on a spiritual path, or wants to start one.
Anyone who loves life, or wants to learn how to.
Anyone who is happy, or wants to be happier.

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Like to learn more about Through God’s Eyes? Here is a free 44-page PDF sampler from the book that includes:

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• my Introduction
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Phil’s eBook, The Logic of Living a Spiritual Life: Supporting a Life of Faith Through Logic and Reason, is now available for 99 cents.

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In this eBook, you’ll find answers to questions like:
• What is the cornerstone of a spiritual life, and why?
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• Why is there an exception to “Everything happens for a reason”?

Those who worship logic instead of God are only half right. Not only is it logical to believe in God and to live a faith-based life, the existence of a loving, benevolent God that governs all creation is perhaps the only systematic worldview that explains every aspect of life.

SiSe_fullcover_final.inddPhil is also the author of Sixty Seconds: One Moment Changes Everything, a collection of 45 inspiring, life-changing stories from prominent authors and thought leaders he interviewed. The roster of storytellers includes Wayne Dyer, Deepak Chopra, Neale Donald Walsch, Caroline Myss, Larry Dossey, Rachel Naomi Remen, Bernie Siegel, Dean Ornish, and Christiane Northrup. Sixty Seconds has been translated into four languages: Italian, German, Spanish, and Portuguese. Reading this book is like spending a few minutes face to face with each of the contributors and listening to their personal stories.

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2 Responses to “Debbie Ford Finds God in an Unlikely Place”

  1. Bruce McIntire Says:

    I’ve been reading along for a while now. I just wanted to drop you a comment to say keep up the good work.

  2. Phil Bolsta Says:

    Thanks so much, Bruce! I appreciate your taking the time to leave a comment!

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