Kendra Wilkinson and Hank Baskett Open Up About His Depression and Drug Use Before Sex Scandal: 'It Was to Calm My Stress'

Depression hit Baskett hard after the end of his career with the NFL, he tells PEOPLE

Photo: Jim Wright

For star athlete Hank Baskett, football was all he’d ever known professionally. And when his career in the NFL ended in 2011, the former wide receiver sank into a deep depression that nearly cost him everything.

Though Baskett, 32, remained in the limelight thanks to his marriage to former Playboy Playmate Kendra Wilkinson and their joint reality TV ventures, the former athlete was unmoored. To cope with the pain, he turned to alcohol and drugs, which ultimately put him in the middle of a sex scandal that tore his marriage apart.

“The stress and depression was eating away at me,” Baskett tells PEOPLE exclusively of his lowest points near the end of 2013. “I fell into what happens to a lot of professional athletes who change careers. It hit me, and it hit hard.”

He continues, “My biggest insecurity was looking like a failure. I made it to the NFL, I was a smart kid, I was the A student.”

The father of Hank IV, 5, and Alijah, 13 months, was prescribed antidepressants and also began using recreational drugs and alcohol as a crutch. “I was drinking like I had never drank before,” says Baskett, who would often cry in the shower or shake from his severe anxiety. “And I was buying weed here and there. It wasn’t to get high or baked out of my mind. It was to calm my stress.”

In fact, as blindsided as Wilkinson was initially when the news of Baskett’s alleged infidelity broke, looking back, she says, “there were so many red flags.”

Says Wilkinson, “Before football, he was alive. After, he’d walk around in a daze. I’d be like, ‘This is not the same guy I knew.’ ”

As far as the sex scandal, it was an attempt to buy marijuana that went horribly awry, says Baskett. The former athlete admits he was fondled by the woman but vehemently denies reports he participated. “I put myself in a bad situation,” Baskett says, “whether I was battling depression or not.”

RELATED VIDEO: Kendra Wilkinson on Life After 30: ‘My Biggest Milestone Yet’

Now, after a rocky road paved with intense therapy and a stint on WE tv’s Marriage Boot Camp: Reality Stars, Wilkinson and Baskett are rebuilding their marriage – and moving on from their painful past.

“I’ve learned a lot about life,” says Wilkinson. Adds Baskett, “We’re in a better place, but we still have room to grow.” But with a new career as co-owner of video game company Gaems, the family man says he’s overcome his depression and anxiety.

“I see what my path is now,” says Baskett. “I’m not wandering around aimlessly. I have a career. And my family is complete.”

For exclusive photos and more from Kendra and Hank, pick up this week’s issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday

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