As we look at the drug addict in our life\u2014the bad decisions, the deteriorating life, the hopeless condition\u2014we can\u2019t help asking, why doesn\u2019t he or she just quit? Why don\u2019t these people see the error of their ways? Why do they continue to spread destruction throughout their own lives and the lives of their loved ones? Why are they choosing such a horrendous existence? The reality, which is very hard for non-addicts to fathom, is that no one actually chooses to be an addict. But, how is addiction not a choice? Don\u2019t we choose to seek out, purchase and use these substances? Aren\u2019t these conscious choices we make? And wouldn\u2019t it be just as possible to choose not to be an addict? These are logical questions from the perspective of a non-addict. But one of the defining characteristics of addiction is the absence of the power of choice. While some have the luxury of saying \u201cno\u201d to a tempting substance or behavior, the addict is compelled, by an obsession beyond his or her control, to say \u201cyes,\u201d over and over again. If you have been hurt or damaged by an addict, it is hard to see addiction as a disease rather than a choice. You know that you can decide every day not to get drunk or use drugs, so why can\u2019t the addict exercise some of the same control? It would be the same as asking cancer patients why they can\u2019t stop their tumors from growing. Why are they just letting the cancer get out of hand? Why aren\u2019t they exercising some willpower? We would think these questions absurd as we all know that cancer is not a condition that an individual can control. Thus we are supportive, we are gentle and we extend help and care. However, we typically fail to extend this same sort of compassion and understanding in the case of addiction and other mental illnesses. Despite the veneer of denial we may see in our addict friends or alcoholic siblings, most would quit if they could and inside are deeply troubled by the condition of their lives. They may want a way out, but they may not know where to start. They may have demons that are just too dangerous to face. The helpful thing to know is that we\u2019ll never lead others to recovery by badgering, criticizing or shaming. While this can be a tempting approach for one who has suffered the blows of another\u2019s addiction, we have to remember that in the end, it doesn\u2019t produce results. And this actually takes a lot of pressure off the situation. We are free to be loving and compassionate to an individual who is very sick without fear that we\u2019re condoning the behavior. But being \u201cloving and compassionate\u201d doesn\u2019t mean being a doormat or relinquishing all boundaries. Nor does it mean lying or sugarcoating the truth. It also doesn\u2019t mean washing your hands of the individual or pretending you don\u2019t care. Love and compassion may mean staging a formal intervention or speaking honestly with the addict about how his or her behavior is affecting you and others, or suggesting Christian drug rehab or another treatment program. It may mean deciding not to make excuses for the addict, separating from an addict spouse and getting help for you. These healthy, proactive and productive behaviors acknowledge that addiction may not be a choice, but the addict does have choices, and so do you.