A Thief Stolen By Love

Neal recalls, “I was told how much potential I had and ‘if you're going to steal, let me teach you how to steal. Because kid, I'm either going to show you diamonds, or I'm going to show you bars.’"

Neal Rozema remembers the time he got caught stealing when he was 8. It was the same day his dad – a professional thief – finally gave him some attention.

“I found a way – I found an avenue, this makes him happy, this has him, this has us connected. And that was the first time that I really ever felt like my father loved me.”

Over the next decade he followed his dad’s lead, learning the ins and outs of being a thief. While it gave him time with his father, it came at a price.

Neal says, “I always knew from the beginning that it was wrong.  And I was never happy, deep down inside with the person that I became. I just wanted my father to love me.  That's all. I wanted my father to love me.”

Neal started using pot, cocaine and other drugs but nothing killed the pain. Then a friend introduced him to heroine.

“As soon as I got up after inhaling this drug, I looked at him and I said, ‘I don't know what that was, but I have a new habit.’ I immediately felt peace, I felt calm, I felt like I didn't care. I never wanted to quit this. Never.”

For the next 7 years, Neal supported his addiction by working in bars and stealing, which landed him in jail on several occasions. During that time he suffered a devastating loss when his father passed away. But then he started dating Carrie, who was a Christian.

Carrie says, “We spent a lot of time together in just getting to know each other and I fell in love with Neal, there's no question.”

Neal says, “The fact that someone this wonderful would even want to spend time with a guy like me, that brought me hope. There's a better way to live and there's someone on this earth that might love me.”

As much as Neal cared for Carrie, he couldn’t let go of his addiction - and kept it hidden from her.

Neal remembers, “I wanted to change even if it was just for her, but I couldn't overcome it.”

Eventually the two got engaged, but just weeks later Neal was arrested for stealing a wallet from a gym locker, and was put in jail.

Neal remembers, “I was devastated to know that when she finds the truth, she's going to leave. And the one person that loved me, that I knew loved me, I was going to lose, and it was because of me.”

With no one to turn to, Neal called Carrie to post bond. By now she had talked to a friend of Neal’s who had told her everything.

Carrie recalls, “My heart just got ripped out. And I told him I didn't want to see him anymore, and I ended the relationship.”

Neal remembers, “When I put that phone down, I was in a daze because for the very first time in my life I felt absolutely and completely alone.  Even if I had the money to bond out that day, I had nowhere to go.  Absolutely nowhere to go.”

Neal returned to his cell.

Neal recalls, “For the first time in my life, and I've never done this, I looked up, I said, ‘God, I'm all alone.  I've hit rock bottom.  I have nothing left.  I have nothing more.  I can't give anymore.  I'm tired of this.  If you'll help me, if you'll protect me, help me get through this, I'll follow you for the rest of my life, no matter what.’"

“I collapsed and I fell on the floor and I couldn't move. I could feel something hovering over me and I could feel the warmth of something going through me and it felt like there were things inside being moved around, things being taken out, things being put back in. And then all of a sudden it went completely quiet and it took everything I had just to climb up in my bunk and pass out.”

“When I woke up the next morning after that, the desire for heroin was completely gone. All the terrible things that were inside of me weren't there anymore. For the first time in my life without chemicals, felt peace.  I felt love.”  

Neal began praying, reading his bible, and repenting for his actions. And a week later, he was called to the visitor room. There waiting for him was Carrie.

Carrie says, “I just told him everything that was on my heart, I felt like God had said that, you know, that he wanted me to stay with him and to pray with him and to fight for him.  And if he was willing to do the right thing, that I would do that with him.”

Neal says, “God didn't have to do that. The fact that he went above and beyond and brought the person that I loved the most in this whole entire world back to me, that sealed it for me.”

Neal was sentenced to 4½ years. He and Carrie used that time to grow in their relationship with each other, and with God. Then immediately after his release in 2007, they married.

Today, Neal is an operations manager for one of the largest landscaping companies in Illinois, but he says his most important roles are as a husband and father to their 4 children.

Neal says, “Jesus never gives up on us. I don't care what you've done, I don't care what your addiction is, I don't care what you're struggling with, give it up!  Don't wait.  He loves you unconditionally, and he'll change your life.  And it'll be a better one, I promise.”

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