Andreas Branch/PatrickMcMullan/Sipa; Jae C. Hong/AP

Having lost her own children because of heroin, O'Neal offers Spears some advice

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October 04, 2007 09:00 AM

Tatum O’Neal, who’s led her own troubled path on the road of motherhood, says that Britney Spears must get treatment and shield her children from media attention.

She “needs to be in recovery and get her disease of addiction together,” said O’Neal, 43, who can empathize with the 25-year-old pop star.

“I relate to her and feel really sad for her,” O’Neal told Entertainment Tonight in a interview to air Thursday.

“I did everything that she doesn’t want to do,” said the Oscar-winning actress (for 1973’s Paper Moon, which costarred her father, Ryan O’Neal). “I did the drug testing … It was very humbling, but I wanted those kids back.”

In 1986, O’Neal wed tennis superstar John McEnroe, and the couple had three children: Kevin, Sean, and Emily. The couple divorced in 1992 and remain openly hostile toward one another. When O’Neal became a heroin addict in 1995, McEnroe took custody of their kids, something he has retained ever since.

“Not being able to see my kids is like part of me is missing,” a recovering O’Neal told PEOPLE in 2002. “Part of my soul is missing.”

Monday, Spears, 25, temporarily lost custody of her two sons – Sean Preston, 2, and Jayden James, 1 – because she was accused of not taking a random drug and alcohol test and she couldn’t provide a California driver’s license. She regained visitation rights Wednesday after another closed-door hearing in the on-going battle with ex-husband Kevin Federline.

“Hopefully she will figure [it] out,” O’Neal told ET. “But it’s going to be hard and she will do it publicly and that sucks.”

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