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Published: Monday, 1/3/2011

Lindsay Lohan to be released by rehab center; Actress, 24, could face charges in alleged attack at Betty Ford

LOS ANGELES -- Lindsay Lohan is to be released from a rehab center Monday into another year of uncertainty.

For months, the actress has been haunted by her inability, or unwillingness, to shake a 3 1/2-year-old drunken-driving case that resulted in two rehab stints and two trips to jail in 2010 alone.

The self-acknowledged addict remains under investigation for an alleged attack on a rehab worker at the Betty Ford Center, and she could land back in jail for six months if charged with misdemeanor battery or another probation violation.

If she stays out of trouble, a judge could relax the terms of her sentence in late February, ending court hearings and jail threats that have occurred since May.

Experts say that after her three months in treatment programs at Betty Ford, she has a good shot at recovery -- provided that she wants it, changes her party-girl lifestyle, and continues in therapy.

If a New Year's Day message posted on her Twitter account is any indication, the Mean Girls star seems ready to do that: "Today is the first day of the rest of my life. 'The future depends on what we do in the present.' -- Mahatma Gandhi ... One step at a time..."

It won't be easy, but she has "a fighting chance," said Jeffrey Friedman, a substance-abuse counselor at Cottonwood Tucson and a recovering heroin addict who has been sober for 24 years.

"It would just be a question: Is she going to be willing to continue to make the sacrifices she needs to? For all of us, it's a lifelong process."

Dr. Westley Clark, an addiction medicine psychiatrist at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, said rehab and recovery are different for each individual.

He said substance abuse can "hijack cognitive functioning" and lead to irrational decisions.

Similar self-destructive actions are sometimes seen in patients battling diseases such as diabetes and obesity, he said.

"Ultimately, someone who has an alcohol or drug problem has to come to grips with the consequences," he said, adding he couldn't specifically speak about her condition.

Dealing with the repercussions of her previous actions won't confront her just in criminal court. She faces a civil trial in which a woman and three men accused her of wrongdoing for a high-speed chase that ended with her arrest in Santa Monica in 2007.

Resurgence for her career appears intertwined with her recovery.

Gone is her role as porn star Linda Lovelace in a biopic, and no replacement acting gig has been announced. But those connected with her clothing enterprise say Lohan, 24, will leave rehab poised to spearhead a fall fashion line.

Even though she hasn't headlined a big film in more than three years, a comeback isn't out of the question.

"If they forgave Robert Downey, Jr., Lindsay should be in the choir compared to him," said J. Michael Flanagan, a high-profile criminal defense attorney.



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