Jon Bon Jovi knows it's a hard, lonely life for a rock 'n' roll cowboy -- especially one whose pardner has vanished and the press won't stop asking him why.

Because he's a professional, Mr. Bon Jovi won't simply refuse to answer the never-ending questions about Richie Sambora's absence from Bon Jovi's most recent round of tour dates -- even though no one's willing to deviate from the official, vaguely worded explanation, which chalks it up to "personal issues." But you can only give a non-answer to the same question so many times, and Jon's getting close to his limit.

"It’s getting more and more difficult every day to not just say something," he admitted during a recent interview with the London Evening Standard. "Because all I can say is this: it’s for personal reasons."

Intimating once again that Sambora's current absence might have been caused by a recurrence of his struggles with substance abuse, Bon Jovi continued, "He’s been through it before. Fortunately for us the same guy who filled in last time was available this time. If someone chooses not to be here...If the Edge for some reason couldn’t make a U2 show, it would be very difficult to just step in."

What it all comes down to, in Bon Jovi's eyes, is a single decision. "You have a choice," he shrugged. "You either figure it out, go and grow, not only survive but thrive -- or you say, ‘I hate my brother and I’m gonna quit the band.’"