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Debbie Ford, 57; turned addictions into self-help books

NEW YORK — Debbie Ford, a former drug addict whose popular self-help books, including the best-selling ‘‘Dark Side of the Light Chasers,’’ encouraged people to acknowledge their faults rather than pursue perfection, died Sunday at her home in San Diego. She was 57.

Her death was announced in a letter posted on her website by her sister, Arielle Ford, who said Debbie Ford had received a cancer diagnosis several years ago. The motivational speaker and author Deepak Chopra, who worked with both sisters for many years, said in a posting that Ms. Ford had a rare form of sarcoma.

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Ms. Ford often described her struggles with substance abuse as a teenager and young adult in South Florida, dealing with her parents’ divorce and a sense that she had not lived up to their expectations.

‘‘I did Percodans, cocaine, mostly a mix of downers and uppers to keep me awake,’’ she told USA Today in 2001. ‘‘I was a mess. I was taking probably 100 pills a day.’’

She checked in and out of drug treatment centers throughout her 20s and into her 30s, spending tens of thousands of dollars on ‘‘anything that was out there,’’ she said.

‘‘My goal was to be able to be alone without food, sugar, phone, men, TV, anything,’’ she said, ‘‘and to feel OK about myself.’’

Ms. Ford said what changed her life was hearing Chopra speak. (Her sister, who became a self-help author as well, had worked as a publicist for Chopra.) Debbie Ford was influenced by Chopra’s assertion that people need to ‘‘embrace’’ their demons rather than try to repress or conquer them.

‘‘Talk about a shift in perception,’’ she recalled. ‘‘It wasn’t about me getting rid of my anger or greed or bitchiness but understanding those were gifts and integrating them.’’

Ms. Ford spent several years working with Chopra before publishing ‘‘The Dark Side of the Light Chasers’’ in 1998. The book did not reach a wide audience until she discussed it on television with Oprah Winfrey in the fall of 2000. Her appearance quickly put the book on best-seller lists, and she went on to write several more books that sold well, including ‘‘The 21-Day Consciousness Cleanse,’’ “The Best Year of Your Life,’’ and ‘‘The Shadow Effect,’’ which she wrote in 2010 with Chopra and Marianne Williamson.

Ms. Ford, who also wrote ‘‘Spiritual Divorce,’’ appeared as a life coach on the short-lived reality show ‘‘The Ex-Wives Club’’ in 2007, encouraging people to admit to the anger they felt toward their former spouses.

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