Carla Goddard has the humility and straightforwardness that comes from hitting rock bottom. It was 1996 and Goddard, who had a good family and went to church, was drunk again. But she knew it was time to get it together. She got up one morning, reached for the phone and called a 12-step program. "It was almost like God came down and opened the window curtain and said 'It's time for you to be doing what you're supposed to be doing,' " she said. The feelings that once sent her to the bottle — "I was not comfortable in my own skin" — took her on a spiritual journey to find herself and help others.
Now Goddard, 45, is an ordained metaphysical minister and a shaman, giving psychic readings, communicating with the spiritual world, and counseling people in Pasco, Hillsborough and beyond. She calls it a healing of the mind, body and spirit, a holistic approach to spirituality and religion.
"I've seen her heal in action. She's very spiritual, very intuitive," said Pearl Prather with Mystikal Scents in Thonotosassa, where Goddard used to give readings. "She's got a wonderful gift."
Although it's taken many forms, religion has always been important to Goddard. "I grew up in a very spiritual home, so it's always been a part of my life," she said.
Goddard was born to an American Indian father and a Christian mother in Maine. Considered a "half breed" and banned from the reservation, she found comfort in the Baptist church, then later converted to Catholicism.
Goddard said despite going to church, she never really felt a connection to it.
"You can't truly have a relationship with God if you're drinking, if you're completely closed off mentally, physically and spiritually," she said.
Soon after she got sober, she found out why she had been feeling so horrible: She had uterine cancer, lupus and other illnesses. She went through cancer treatments and the long process of healing her body and soul.
"When you get as sick as I did, all of a sudden you're given your life back. You're so overwhelmed with gratitude that you just want to live life," Goddard said. Then she looked around and realized, "a whole bunch of people are lost in the darkness, like me, (and) they have nothing to hold on to. 'I said, there's got to be something somebody can do.' "
She prayed about it and realized that that somebody was her.
Over the years Goddard has reached out to thousands of alcoholics. She also provides spiritual counseling that usually runs $25 to $30 for an initial session, although she doesn't turn anyone away who can't afford it.
Her ordination is from International Metaphysical Ministries, and she received training as a Waiest Monk from The Universal Temple in Lynn Haven.
Goddard has taught classes and is getting a doctorate in metaphysical parapsychology — the study of ghosts or angels — from the University of Sedona. She said some of the terms can be a turnoff, so she tries to focus on helping people get rid of the negative emotions in their lives.
"I try to teach things in a different way that makes sense to people and de-mystify this new-age terminology that seems to be out there," Goddard said.
She speaks in places where she's made connections, like Maryland, New Hampshire and Boca Raton. She helps a Presbyterian Church in South Florida. She does Reiki, officiates weddings, writes articles and books, and takes prayer requests on Facebook.
Debbie Canero, owner of Spiritual Connection in Zephyrhills, met Goddard through a mutual friend.
"I've seen how it helps people with their issues, helps them relax. It's like day and night," Canero said. "She's a very interesting person, very down to earth. Her goal is to help empower others."
Goddard studies and often quotes the Bible, using it as a source of inspiration and support. She also studied Buddhism and now practices and teaches meditation. She meditates for an hour in the morning and an hour at night.
"The Buddhists have this phenomenal way of allowing the mind to be completely quiet," she said.
Goddard has been married for 21 years to David, a diesel mechanic. They have three kids. The oldest is a military police officer stationed in Germany. The younger two are students at Land O'Lakes High School. The family lives in the rural, rolling hills of Crystal Springs, outside Zephyrhills.
"I knew this is where I was supposed to be," she said.
Every religion is ultimately about getting connected and finding a spiritual understanding of love, Goddard said, and they're all working toward creating a better place to live.
"If you want to change the world you need to start with yourself, then change one person at a time," she said. "Throw one pebble in the water and it's like a ripple effect."
"Faith in Motion" is a regular feature about an individual or group doing something inspiring in the course of a spiritual journey. Mindy Rubenstein can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.