On a grimy rooftop in South Central Los Angeles, a junkie is wielding a syringe and a knife. A few days later, in a lush hotel suite, an executive is coming dangerously close to overdosing on crack. In both cases Warren Boyd is there, just doing his job—trying to save drug users from themselves.

A former alcoholic and cocaine addict who has been sober for the past 18 years, Boyd specializes in "extreme interventions." Alerted by those close to an addict, he'll do whatever it takes to get someone to rehab. His determination has inspired the new A&E drama The Cleaner, with Benjamin Bratt playing the title role. In real life, Boyd has rescued more than 100 addicts on the brink of death, despite being occasionally shot at and beaten by the same people he's trying to help. He has also reportedly aided celebrities—including Robert Downey Jr. and Whitney Houston—during their drug battles, though he won't confirm any names. "It doesn't matter if you're a celebrity, a law professor or a construction worker," says Boyd, 50. "Addiction is a struggle for everyone."

He should know. By the age of 32, Boyd, who was raised in Santa Rosa, Calif., had racked up nine DUIs and spent five years in prison. While working in construction and mechanic jobs, he had also gone—unsuccessfully—through 26 rehab programs. In 1990, just before he reported back to jail on a drug charge, his girlfriend, Deedee, gave birth to their first child. "Up until that moment, no one could talk any sense into me," Boyd recalls. "But when the nurse placed her in my arms, I knew it was all over." During the next 15 months, while attending 12-step meetings behind bars, he got clean for good.

Today Boyd and Deedee, 37, are married and live in L.A. with their three kids. In addition to running private rehab centers, he and his staff—comprised of former addicts—are on call 24 hours a day for interventions. He's also a co-producer on The Cleaner but has no plans to quit his day job, not as long as there are addicts who need help. "The whole theory of hitting rock bottom is a farce," says Boyd. "Rock bottom always has a trap door."