Stephen M. Silverman
April 13, 2005 08:30 AM

After a month in rehab, Billy Joel checked out of the Betty Ford Center in Rancho Mirage, Calif., early Sunday morning, his publicist, Claire Mercuri, tells the Associated Press.

The “Piano Man,” 55, entered the clinic in March after suffering what Mercuri then said was “a recent bout of severe gastrointestinal distress.” He was to receive “treatment of alcohol abuse,” she said.

He is now reportedly back at his Long Island, N.Y., home with his wife, Kate Lee, 24.

Joel had checked into a New York hospital this past February after experiencing severe gastric pains. He also has been hospitalized three other times in the past three years: twice for minor injuries sustained when his car crashed on Long Island, and once for rehab – spending 10 days at Connecticut’s Silver Hill Hospital, a clinic specializing in drug and alcohol treatment.

At the time of his release from Silver Hill, Joel told PEOPLE that a respiratory infection “made me very depressed. … I then began what was a prolonged period of overindulgence. I don’t want to get more specific.”

He also said, referring to daughter Alexa Ray, born in 1986 (her mother is Joel’s ex-wife Christie Brinkley): “I told my daughter that I recognized I was having a problem. And my gift to her for Father’s Day was going to be cleaning up my act.”

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