Most of the men who sign up for the Frederick Rescue Mission's Christian-based residential recovery program have made several destructive decisions during their lives, said Kenny King.
"From a holistic perspective, we're trying to heal the group emotionally, physically, spiritually," said King, pastor at the Liberty Fellowship in Libertytown and a staff member at the mission's Changed Life Recovery Program.
Requiring residents to stop smoking will be one more rung on the ladder toward fostering an addiction-free lifestyle, he said.
For the past six months, the Frederick Rescue Mission's Changed Life Recovery Program organizers have been coaxing their residents to cede their smoking habits with a series of classes and access to nicotine gums and patches, said King and Pastor Keith Rivers, program director.
The smoking ban, which took effect May 20, is representative of the changes the mission has developed to improve the yearlong program, Rivers said.
Starting June 1, for example, those interested in filling one of the rehabilitation program's 30 slots can enter at more times during the year -- every few months instead of twice a year as before, Rivers said.
The program's curriculum will get an update to include a 30-day induction class that will serve as a sort of probation period for residents to assess the program, and for staff to evaluate the seriousness of its prospective residents, Rivers said.
Eventually, the mission would like to open a program slot every month, he said.
The changes would have likely shortened the time Kevin Hanna will have to spend at the Frederick Rescue Mission. He is eligible to graduate from the residency program in November.
Nevertheless, Hanna said the extra time will be beneficial.
About 10 years ago, Hanna spent almost two years in a Florida jail on heroin distribution charges.
When Hanna's fianc?e and the mother of his son dropped him at the doorstep of the Frederick Rescue Mission in July 2009, she had to trick him to bring him there.
Hanna, 31, was about 40 pounds underweight, withdrawing from heroin and had a broken jaw from a fight with a relative.
Nevertheless, he signed up and managed to quit illegal drugs cold turkey.
He said he knew if he continued living as he had he would wind up back in prison, severely damaged or dead.
Hanna credits his relationship with God, above all else, with helping change his life, just at the moment he'd hoped to become more involved with his fianc?e and his son.
"Whether we know it or not, God's always on time," he said.
Quitting cigarettes a few months ahead of the ban -- again, cold turkey -- was also difficult, he said.
But eventually "God finally took it from me," he said.
Part of a life change
King said that aside from the health benefits, stopping smoking is a great way to save money, to break the pattern of addictive behaviors and to adhere to a daily schedule.
Those who wish to enroll can no longer have nicotine in their system, Rivers said.
Immediately following the final date of the smoking ban, eight men dropped out of the program, he said.
Rivers said the mission tried to steer these men to another rehabilitation group in Baltimore that would allow smoking, and several did.
Perhaps giving up meant these men weren't fully prepared to complete the program, or perhaps leaving smoking was just one step too far, King said.
Regardless, Rivers, King and the other staff agree the decision was a wise one.
They visited two other Christian-based recovery sites in Ohio, and a third in Florida -- all of which enforced the smoking ban and found it workable.
"They have to believe there is a better life," he said. Without that hope, they will not succeed.
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