Tatum O'Neal by Tim Grant/ WireImage.com Tatum O'Neal by Tim Grant/ WireImage.com

Tatum O'Neal says that the police officers who pinched her for possession of cocaine saved her from destroying her life. O'Neal - who long has battled alcoholism and substance abuse issues, losing custody of her children along the way - tells the New York Post she had been doing well and staying straight, but fell into a funk when her 16-year-old Scottish terrier was claimed by cancer. "That seemed to set me off," she says. "She was the fabric of our family. It was too horrible for words."

O'Neal sought help from a psychiatrist and kept up with her 12-step meetings, "but I couldn't get out of it." Next thing she knew, "I'm walking aimlessly [and] I found myself doing the wrong thing" - buying coke from a panhandler. Shortly thereafter, she was arrested. "Just when I was about to... wreck my life, the cops came and saved me!" O'Neal says.

"I'm eternally grateful... that I didn't get to do what my disease was telling me to do," she adds. "I'm still going to get my year on July 10!"

While FX has no comment on Rescue Me's future plans for the actress, she has appeared in one of the four episodes filmed thus far for Season 5, premiering in April 2009. TVGuide.com has learned that O'Neal will not (nor was she expected to) be featured in the series of between-seasons Rescue Me "minisodes" coming later this month. - Matt Mitovich