Plymouth man’s comeback story has redemption written all over it
Jailed and troubled as a teen, Ford’s turn-around remarkable
If Justin Ford’s 18-year-old life had been described in a real estate listing, it probably would have started: “Fixer-upper with a ton of potential … just needs some tender-loving care.”
That the Plymouth real estate entrepreneur and happily-married father of four is alive and thriving today is a testament to his never-say-die resilience and unbreakable faith.
His turn-around is also proof that life rebuilds — even ones where demolition may seem to be the best option — are possible.
Ford’s parents’ divorce when he was 2 turned out to be the tipping point of a chaotic childhood that included a second divorce (his mother’s), a life-shaking move-in with his recovering-alcoholic dad (who relapsed while caring for Justin) at the age of 13 and more real-life drama than even an honor-roll/athletic teenager could bear.
“When I was 14 or 15, I had aspirations to go to college and become a lawyer, like my grandfather,” Ford remembered. “My grandfather told me that if I stayed out of trouble I could become an attorney and, basically, take over his law firm. His only condition was that I stay out of trouble.”
That, unfortunately, didn’t happen.
“I started experimenting with drinking and smoking cigarettes,” Ford said. “From the ages of 17 to 19 I was hanging out with the wrong people, started using drugs and I was with a girl who was older than me. There was a bunch of stuff that started pushing me off the deep end.”
Ford’s life hit rock bottom in 2001 when he was arrested following a drunk-driving accident, violating probation he was handed following a series of misdemeanor drug-related incidents.
He was sentenced to six months in the Oakland County Jail as part of a work-release program.
“I told the judge I couldn’t do the work release because my driver’s license had been suspended,” Ford said. “So I volunteered to go through the sheriff’s department’s eight-week boot camp program.”
A prime example of “be careful what you wish for”, the boot camp experience evolved into one of the most difficult — but ultimately rewarding — times of Ford’s life.
“The boot camp was run by former Marines and retired military personnel,” he said. “It was basically run like a Marine boot camp — dressed in camouflage every day, doing drills that required crawling through mud. It was the hardest thing I had ever gone through.”
Determined to turn his life around, Ford excelled under the grueling conditions, earning the camp’s highest laurel — distinguished honor graduate.
Ford also credited a five-month stay at the Pontiac-based Grace Centers of Hope for getting him back on the right track.
“I checked myself in voluntarily to the faith-based treatment center, where a guy named Duane took me under his wing,” Ford said. “Duane helped me develop a relationship with God and grow in my faith. It truly transformed my life.”
ANOTHER OBSTACLE ARISES
In the years following his transformation, Ford met his wife, started a family and kick-started a successful career in the mortgage industry.
“All of a sudden the (world financial) crash happened in 2008 and we lost everything,” Ford said. “Our house went into foreclosure, we went through bankruptcy, both of our cars were repossessed, we were on food stamps. Life was tough.”
Undeterred, Ford started helping people with short sales and loan modifications.
“I wanted to help people who were going through the same thing my family went through,” he said.
A short time after earning his real estate license in 2013, Ford signed on with Plymouth-based Realtor Jeff Glover. He sold 100 homes in his first year as a real estate agent.
“My first sale was a church,” he recalled. “It was the church I was baptized in.”
Ford is currently a leader of a team of agents at EXP Realty, a motivational speaker and the author of “Unleashed: 7 Key Principles to Breaking Free and Breaking Through”, which was released earlier this month.
His speaking career was ignited when he met the founder of the Michigan chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Drivers several years ago.
“I told her my story and she let me start sharing my testimony with high school students and church groups,” he said.
Ford’s survival story has resonated with countless young people who could relate to his teenaged plight.
“I’ve had many young people approach me and tell me they were thinking about committing suicide and changed their mind after hearing my testimony,” Ford said. “Young people have told me my story helped them give up drugs and alcohol. It’s a great feeling knowing I’ve changed lives.”
If a real estate listing was written to describe Ford’s current life experience, it would no doubt include captivating, lovingly maintained and balanced.
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