06/08/1998 at 01:00 AM EDT
Last June, Charlie Sheen pleaded no contest to smashing girlfriend Brittany Ashland's face into the floor of his Agoura Hills, Calif., home. Fined $2,800, he was given two years probation and ordered to attend counseling and perform 300 hours of community service. "You will not see me back in this courtroom," he promised the judge.
Don't bet on it. At 5:30 a.m. on Wednesday, May 20, Sheen, complaining of a tingling sensation in his hands and difficulty walking, arrived by ambulance at Los Robles Regional Medical Center in Thousand Oaks, Calif. Despite some broadcast reports of his death, "he was conscious, and his vital signs were not in the danger zone," says hospital spokeswoman Kris Carraway-Bowman. At a press conference the next day, Martin Sheen admitted his son had suffered "a drug overdose." (The L.A. district attorney's office is awaiting toxicology reports before deciding if Sheen violated probation.) "It is my hope," said the elder Sheen, a member of Alcoholics Anonymous, "that he will accept recovery and become free."
So far, this seems unlikely. A few hours after checking himself into Malibu's Promises rehab center on Friday night, Sheen, 32, called for a limo and left in his pajamas. A Promises doctor phoned police, telling them Sheen should be under supervision because of the drugs he had been given to help with his withdrawal. When police stopped his car at 1:30 a.m., Sheen appeared drowsy, as if under sedatives, and, according to one officer, smelled of alcohol. On Sunday, Sheen reentered Promises.
Having briefly checked into rehab in 1990 for what he said was "extreme exhaustion" and admitting, in 1995, to a taste for expensive hookers, Sheen's May 24 concession that he had "destructive appetites" came as no surprise. Still, he added, "it's time for a change. I'm looking forward to embracing life again." Actor Chris McDonald, who shot the buddy film Five Aces with Sheen in March, thinks his friend's ways may be hard to change. "It's no news that Charlie likes to live large," McDonald says. "He works hard, and he plays hard. But there's a tax to pay for that, and he's paying that now."