His name is Eli Nash and he’s a proud recovering sex addict – so proud that the former Montreal yeshivah student, now 34, told 300 people about how, for years, he couldn’t get enough pornography, strip clubs and prostitutes.
“It was always more variety, more frequency, more hardcore,” Nash said at a benefit for Chabad Lifeline, which was held at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts on Oct. 24.
When “an endless more” failed to satisfy him, Nash faced up to what he regards as the disease of sex addiction.
Wearing a kippah and T-shirt reading, “Porn Kills Love,” Nash recalled the day in 2013 when that happened. He had started going to recovery meetings, but was overcome with an urge to “reach for the top shelf” one more time before he had to give it all up.
That morning, he found “bliss” with two prostitutes. “But at 1 a.m., I came out just as miserable and that was panic-inducing,” he told a hushed audience. He had built up a tolerance to his “drug.”
Today, Nash is a successful entrepreneur based in Miami and married to Fraidy, who also spoke frankly about her devastation when she found out that the man she loved and idealized had this dark side to him.
Nash is telling his story publicly to encourage others with unhealthy sexual compulsions to get help. “I’m proud, damn proud that I did,” he said.
He’s worried about today’s youth. “At 13 or 14, I had to go through hoops to see porn; now kids have to go through hoops not to watch it,” he said.
Nash traces his problems to his childhood in a Hasidic family in New York. “I looked for a lot of love in a lot of sex and learned that without love and intimacy, sex is meaningless and soul-crushing,” he said.
Nash said he was repeatedly sexually abused for three years from the age of eight, something he kept to himself. From the earliest age, he felt “unsafe.” Crime and violence was rampant in his neighbourhood.
At 18, he was sent to Montreal, to “a rabbinical college in Snowdon.” There was a strip club nearby and “like a magnet,” Nash was drawn to it. There, his growing appetite for sex graduated from fantasy to actual contact.
After hitting rock bottom, he attended 90 straight days of group meetings in South Beach, Fla.
Fraidy said that, although she felt “betrayed and lied to,” she stood by Nash, believing that “while this was very much part of him, it did not define him.” His healing “was a long, brutal process, but the reward for me was magical,” she said.
The headline speaker was another recovering sex and substance addict, Nash’s friend, Lamar Odom, a member of the 2009 and 2010 NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers.
Odom, who was married to media personality Khloé Kardashian, almost died four years ago as a result of his cocaine use. He suffered 14 strokes and six heart attacks, he said.
“I’m here to tell you there is no shame in addiction or seeking out the medication to treat your addiction,” he said.
In conversation with Chabad Lifeline director Rabbi Binyamin Bresinger, Odom refuted the belief that terming compulsive sexual activity an addiction is an “excuse” for engaging in such behaviour.
“It really is an addiction. I wish I had known that a lot earlier. I would not have hurt as many women,” Odom said.
For Rabbi Bresinger, who has led the non-profit for 12 years with his wife, Karen, there is no question that it is an addiction and must be treated without judgment or shame.
Chabad Lifeline offers individual and group therapy to anyone affected by addiction of any kind on a non-sectarian basis, including family members. In 2018, it recorded 18,700 individual visits.
Rabbi Bresinger stressed that children in affected families are often the overlooked victims of addiction. When he was a child, his older brother was “out of control”; his parents did not know where to turn and he, then 12, and his younger sister were bewildered.
The evening was held in collaboration with the seventh annual Au Contraire Film Festival on Mental Illness. Founded by Phil and Barbara Silverberg, the festival seeks to eradicate the stigma and myths associated with mental health issues.