A Life Lived Out of Bounds
By Randy Rudder
The 700 Club
CBN.com -“I was sleeping with possibly three to four women some days, and still didn’t think that was out of the norm at the time,” former NBA star Winston Bennett says of his days of promiscuity.
Fame often comes at a price. For Winston, it fueled an addiction to sex.
It started in high school. He grew up in a Christian home and knew what he was doing was wrong, but it did not deter him. “If you’ve been in Christendom any time at all, you know that there’s a hole in all of us that has to be filled,” Winston says. “I felt like sex would fulfill that need that I so deeply desired, only to find out that it wasn’t fulfilling that need. That hole was still there.”
Winston was a basketball star in high school and was recruited by the University of Kentucky. Now in the spotlight, he got all the attention from women he wanted, which fed his addiction. “Once I reached college, it really went on to a whole new level,” he recalls. “I felt like we were on a concert stage, because there is so much notoriety and fame and everything that attaches itself to that.”
Winston admits he enjoyed it, but says the thrill was short-lived. “Every time I had sex, I would generally go and be completely sheltered, completely non-social, shut myself off in a room, let down the curtains and the shades. Because then the whole guilt and shame would set in: knowing that ‘Hey, you were a reproach against God again. When is this going to stop?’”
After playing basketball in Europe, he went to the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers. He also married Peggy, a girl from his home church in Kentucky. He thought marriage would bring an end to his struggles, but it didn’t. Just days after their wedding, he had a one-night stand and confessed it to his new wife.
“He said, “She was a stranger. She was a maid in a hotel,’ Peggy recalls. “And I thought, ‘People do that? They just have sex with people that they don’t know, that they’ve never met?’ I was devastated. It was like I had been hit by a train.”
It wouldn’t be the last time. Winston tried to be faithful, but the temptations on the road were too much for him.
Peggy says, “I knew I had biblical grounds to divorce my husband, but what I wanted was, what is it that God wants me to do? In this process, Winston would tell me, ‘I don’t want to do this to you. I don’t want to hurt you; I don’t know how to stop. I wish I could die.’ I would see him crying out to God, asking God to help him. So I knew that there was a person, the real Winston Bennett, on the inside, locked up, and didn’t know how to get out from underneath the garbage that was inside of him.”
Some friends urged Peggy to leave, but each time she found the grace to keep praying for Winston and to believe God. “I knew I was God. I knew it wasn’t me, because I would be hurting,” she says. “This was the type of pain that I would never wish on anybody. But yet God would give me compassion and he would say, ‘Just trust me. Forgive him, and trust me to turn him around.’ And it caused me to trust God at a level that I had never trusted God before.”
“After the occurrence, after feeling the guilt and shame, which was always a part of it, was the repentance aspect,” Winston says. “But it was never a complete turning away. It was a turning away for a while, until I felt that emotion again.”
After three years in the NBA, Winston’s playing career ended due to injuries. Later, Rick Pitino hired him as an assistant coach at Kentucky and took Winston with him when he was hired to coach the Boston Celtics. But Winston broke the team’s ethics code when he slept with a college student—and he was fired.
“I was right where I wanted to be, and then I make a humongous professional mistake and spiritual mistake that cost me my job, so I felt like the house of cards had fallen down and I was at the end of my rope,” Winston says.
Peggy was crushed when she found out, and tried to kill herself. “I thought ‘God I can’t do this anymore. So I got in the car, and I proceeded to drive. I got on the expressway, and could hear a voice saying, ‘Push the pedal. Push the pedal. Get the car to 90.”
Peggy then called her pastor to say goodbye.
“I was just crying, I was screaming, I was just telling him I was getting ready to end my life. I could hear him on the other end, pleading the blood of Jesus. He just kept saying, “Jesus,’ And the more he said, ‘Jesus,’ I could feel my foot coming off the pedal, and the car straightening up.”
Peggy and Winston separated. Then one day, she heard a sermon at her church about demonic strongholds and gave a copy to Winston.
“He talked about generational curses and he began to define what these demonic forces are when it came to sex and drugs. And the tears just began to flow down my face, because I felt like he was talking directly about my situation, about Winston.”
Later, a friend encouraged her to study the book of Hosea in the Bible. “God told Hosea to marry Gomer, who was a prostitute. God told Hosea to love her. It showed me how God felt toward Israel--the adultery, all the things that we do—that we do—and He doesn’t kick us to the curb,” Peggy says. “I knew without a doubt that’s what He was wanting me to do: to forgive, to love as Hosea did.”
This turn of events was a wake-up call for Winston, who finally went into counseling for his addiction. “It allowed me to look at myself differently. Up to this point, I hadn’t considered myself to be, and neither wanted to accept, that I could possibly be a sex addict. But there was a different mode of thinking going into this treatment program, not only finding myself and understanding what I was dealing with, but also giving me the tools, hopefully, to help deal with it.”
After much time praying and seeking God, Winston finally began to overcome his addiction. “There had to be the choice to make pursuing God an all-consuming passion,” he says. “That was the real turning point for me.”
Peggy adds, “I am in awe at what God has done in Winston. I can honestly see the growth, and see his passion for God.” She also gives God all the credit for saving their marriage. “Our marriage would not be where it is today if God were not in the center. He is our marriage. He is the captain of this ship. And without Him there would be no marriage,” she adds. “Sometimes it’s not easy to show people that have caused you pain love, but that’s what God does for us.”
Winston and Peggy both chronicled their stories in their books, Fight for Your Life
, and From the Ashes
. Today Winston speaks to men about overcoming sex addiction. ““I had to see my husband in the eyesight of God, how God saw him. And now it’s indescribable. I can smile. I have joy. I have peace. The love that we share now is better than it’s ever been. This is the kind of love that God was wanting us to have toward each other.”
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