Mom-Son Intervention Team Inspired by His Addiction

VIDEO: Debbie and Brandon Knauss stage drug interventions on TLCs "Cracking Addiction."
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Brandon Knauss spent six months in jail -- "a cold, concrete hole" -- detoxing from a heroin and opiate addiction without any medications to help with the horror.

"There's a reason they call it kicking the habit," said Brandon, who was in his 20s at the time and had failed in rehab. "Your legs kick and I didn't sleep for the first two weeks.

"The aches went all the way to my bones," he said. "I felt like climbing the walls. I was crawling out of my skin with huge anxiety and panic attacks, nausea, diarrhea, sweats and chills. I'd rather die than go though that again."

Now 30, and clean. He credits his mother for saving his life by leaving him in jail after he flunked 10 drug tests.

"That was my rock bottom," he said. "Every addict has a rock bottom."

Debbie Knauss never gave up on her son and today, the pair work as a team in their Dallas-based family business, Vital Intervention Professionals (V.I.P.), to help other families wounded by addiction.

"Doing these interventions has kept me away from going back down that steep slope," said Brandon. "It reminds me of all the pain I caused my family and myself."

Tonight, a one-hour special, "Cracking Addiction," follows the Knausses as they prepare to execute two unpredictable surprise interventions: Angelica, a 23-year-old pregnant college dropout who is hooked on heroin; and meth-addicted Heather, a former biology teacher who has lost custody of her two children.

The TLC show airs at 9 ET, 8 Central.

The mother-son team follows families "door to door," from finding the addict on the streets, to intervention, through court orders, rehab and family readjustment -- 24 hours a day.

"She can relate to what families are going through, their anxiety and fears," said Brandon. "I get into the addict's head and know what they are thinking."

The Knauss family knows the mind set of an addict well: In 2003, Brandon was the first televised intervention with Dr. Phil McGraw. Then a college drop-out and addicted to opiates, he stormed off the show.

"It was kind of a hard thing to deal with at the time," he said. "I walked off the stage and broke some things. Dr. Phil told me to do a couple of things and gave me a choice between jail and rehab."

Brandon went into a halfway house but things fell apart and he slipped back into drug use.

"I wasn't grown up enough to ask for help and ashamed that I'd failed," he said. "Because of the stigma associated with addiction, no one wants to admit they are addicted."

Brandon's addiction began at a young age. In grade school, he and a friend had tried a few beers then tried to "explode" the cans. By 15 or 16, he was going to parties with alcohol, which he now views as the worst "gateway drug."

"It made me feel different," he said. "It took away my self-consciousness and shyness."

By 16, he was smoking pot and his grades started to slip. By 18, he tried ecstasy. In college, he was experimenting with opiates.

"I got addicted real quickly," said Brandon.

By the time he was 21, Debbie Knauss called Dr. Phil for help. But it was short-lived. "It felt like a nightmare," said Brandon. "They lied to me and tricked me even though I was the biggest liar out of everybody."

He entered rehab, but a little more than a year later, hanging out with old friends, he was back on pills and soon, heroin. "I couldn't control it," said Brandon. "The cravings were so strong for me."

The day everything changed, Brandon borrowed his mother's car to meet with his probation officer. After finding heroin in drug tests, a judge jailed him and gave him one phone call home so his mother could pick up her car.

"Little did I know the events would change the course of his life and ours," said Debbie Knauss, who found syringes in the car's console.

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