08/03/1998 AT 12:00 AM EDT
Before entering his current state of grace -- playing Sam Seaborn in the NBC hit series "The West Wing" and enjoying a highly stable and loving family life -- Rob Lowe was in a state of turmoil. In its Sept. 11 cover story, PEOPLE traces the highs and lows of Lowe, for whom the down period seemed to start in the late '80s. First came a notorious homemade sex videotape of him and two women (one of whom was underage). "I don't think I was the originator of that kind of behavior," Lowe, 36, tells PEOPLE. "But the fact that I could find myself in that position was indicative of where my head was at." This was followed by his embarrassment at the 1989 Oscars, on which he sang to Snow White in a tacky production number. And at the same time, Lowe's wife Sheryl, 39, tells PEOPLE, his drinking was out of control. After a 1990 trip to Fiji with him, Sheryl broke off their budding relationship. Two days later he checked into rehab. "I was willing to do whatever it took," he tells PEOPLE. A year later, they wed. Home is on six acres in upscale Santa Barbara, Calif., and the Lowes have two sons (ages 6 and 4), three dogs -- and a frog.