The Greatest Showman and Addiction Recovery

So I am not a big movie person.  After Trauma blindsided me, most movies, songs, and media experiences felt like a Trigger Time-bomb waiting to happen. But every now and then, a movie comes along that is worth my time and my ten dollar bill.

The Greatest Showman was this for me.

Although seeing this movie was a triggering experience for me, the underlying message of all that it had to say was worth the initial painful reaction.

Everything in this movie seemed to tell my story.

Of course, there is the wife who is  walking the tightrope of being married to a man who can find “Never Enough” in his pursuit of filling the God-shaped holes in himself, most painfully in a relationship with another woman, which felt undeniably close to home.

But there are also the “renegades” who feel isolated and broken, finding the inner strength to say “This is Me!” and leave shame at the door.

And this week, I have found myself as I have been working Step 6 praying to “Let this promise in me start, like an Anthem in my heart…From now On!”  As I belt this song from the top of my lungs in my car, I feel the joy of “Coming Home” to that indescribable feeling of Oneness with my Higher Power that comes when I am FINALLY “entirely ready” to let go of the fear or coping strategies that have been keeping me in the cage.

For me, this movie was the story of my addict, the story of me, and ultimately, the story of both of our redemption, coming home to each other and our God…learning that NOTHING will ever be “Enough” without Him at the center of our lives.

I would love to hear what you loved, or hated, about this movie, and the connections you made to recovery through its story and music.  Please share your thoughts!

14 thoughts on “The Greatest Showman and Addiction Recovery”

  1. Yes! This is how it was for me too. Triggering but worth it. I went back to sort of lean into the trigger and see what it’s trying to teach me.
    There’s parts of it that I wish I could feel only happy and inspired about, but I don’t. But I still love it and the humanity in it.

  2. the lyrics were very inspiring to hear and a reminder that I have all I need already and it is enough for me reach my fullest potential when I say I’m enough as I am. for me, the movie reminded me that we all feel “not enough” and the whole human race can relate to it. It’s interesting how this feeling manifests throughout our lives through different experiences in all the characters and how they found a way to make peace with it.

  3. I’ve seen this movie twice now and had to leave the theater during the movie both times to cry in the hallway. I literally feel like this is the story of my life. I was married for almost 21 years to an addict. I knew about his addiction from the first year of marriage and fought to keep our marriage stable the entire time. We worked through an affair 9 years ago, although I didn’t have the resources I do now so I never really moved on. As my husband began making more money and being praised in his field, he began traveling more. It was difficult to compete with the praise he received by commanding a stage of thousands and being wined and dined by clients. His life became focused on making more money, being more admired, and being physically attractive. I was guided by God to leave the marriage 5 months ago after learning about more affairs. I always hoped that he would change, but I learned how to hold boundaries, which was something he fought hard against. When I watched The Greatest Showman, I was struck by the similarities to my own struggle and felt heartbroken that my story didn’t get to end the same way as the movie. My kids and I deserved a happy ending, but my husband never came to the realization that WE WERE ALWAYS ENOUGH.

    The scene where Jenny Lind is singing on the stage for the first time and Charity sees the admiring look on her husband’s face completely broke my heart. Charity was already experiencing feelings of betrayal, and her husband hadn’t even started touring with Jenny yet. A few lines from the movie that really stuck out to me were all spoken by Barnum’s wife, Charity:

    1) “You don’t need the whole world to love you. Just a few good people.”

    2) “When will it ever be enough for you?”

    3) I can’t remember the exact wording, but Charity had just decided to leave Phineas because she saw a picture of him kissing Jenny Lind, plus found out they had gone bankrupt. Phineas tried to convince her to stay by saying, “I don’t love her!” Charity immediately responded with something to the effect of, ” Of course you don’t! You don’t love her and you don’t love me. You love yourself.”

    I always wanted my husband to love me and our children more than he loved his ego. This movie has an amazing soundtrack and great story line, but it just hits entirely too close to home for me.

    1. Thanks for sharing this! So real and raw -that would be hard. You are enough <3 <3 <3 I love the line in "This is Me" that says, "There's nothing I'm not worthy of." I'm sending that love your way tonight.

    2. Thank you for sharing this! You really nailed the most poignant triggers on the head. I am so sorry that you didn’t get the “Coming Home” you were hoping for in your marriage. You are not alone and your story validates and strengthens all the many women who are in the same boat. I am so grateful you had the courage to share it.

  4. “This is Me” is a phenomenal song! I especially related to the message it shared about being you. I have been listening to it way more than is probably good. 😁

  5. Thanks for sharing this! So real and raw -that would be hard. You are enough <3 <3 <3 I love the line in "This is Me" that says, "There's nothing I'm not worthy of." I'm sending that love your way tonight.

  6. I also have felt so many similarities of my story to this story. It was hard to watch parts of the show, and I openly cried during these times. But the good in the story was so uplifting for me. I have been listening to the whole soundtrack when I need a pick me up, or as part of my self care.

    A couple weeks ago, I had to be in charge of a Board Retreat for a community group that I am involved in. This year, I am serving as the President of this group. As the President, this year it was my responsibility to conduct and lead this half day retreat. I’ve never done anything like this before, so I was well out of my comfort zone. I was dreading this for weeks. Finally, I realized that whatever I do will be good enough. Because I am good enough just the way I am right now. Even though I am not like everybody else. That song, “This is Me” helped me to see how comparing myself with other people is not good for me. I was chosen as the President, because what I have to offer is good enough now. Sometimes it is hard for me to remember that. I sometimes think I have to do things the same, really awesome ways that other people do them. But I am so different from them, that I just can’t do things the same way they do. My brain just doesn’t work that way. When I realized that whatever I can do will be a great contribution to my community organization, exactly the way I do it, it helped me leave that fear and shame behind me, and just serve the way I know how to do.

    Also, I am not sure this helps anyone or not. But after seeing the show, I wanted to know if the inappropriate relationship that the show hinted at was true or an embellishment to give the story a twist. So I did a little internet research. I read somewhere that the inappropriate relationship was not true in real life. That there was never a picture of them kissing. And that the family of P.T. Barnum was upset that the show portrayed that. I also read that PT Barnum wrote of his deep love for his wife in his autobiography. I don’t know if this bit of information helps any of you ladies or not, but I know it made me feel better to know it.

  7. Music has always been something that touches me deeply and is God’s way of communicating with me. The first time my wife and I saw this movie, we went on a long needed date. She was triggered and we had an opportunity to talk about it. The conversation was a healing one and it gave me a lot to think about. We took our kids to see it and I viewed the movie through the lens of our conversation. I could see my wife and I in the story of P.T. Barnum and Charity. I could see the humanity in both of them and in our own story.

    The music in this film spoke so much truth for me personally. “This is Me” and “From Now On” have become anthems for me in my journey of healing. Some of lines from those songs reach a place in me that I feel only God can reach.

  8. I also wanted to add that there is something really powerful in the song, “A Million Dreams.” The stanza where Charity’s character sings really hit home for me in a marriage where what I long for most is transparency and honesty. She sings, “However big, however small
    Let me be part of it all
    Share your dreams with me
    You may be right, you may be wrong
    But say that you’re bring me along
    To the world you see…”

    I find that my husband’s struggles with lust/porn don’t affect me nearly as severely as his being closed off to me. I’ve often compared it to knocking against a concrete shell -I know he’s in there, but I can’t get in. I just want to be part of his journey, and that includes the struggles! I don’t only want to know the good. I want to know the bad and I want to connect and share. Whether his struggles are big or small or right or wrong… I want to be included. Later in the movie as she’s leaving him, she says, “I never minded the risk but you always included me.”
    The feelings that come from being excluded from his journey are really painful.

    I once heard someone said they appreciate knowing the worst parts of the ones they love the most, “so I can dress for the weather.” YES. I love that! We are resilient and even love knowing about the humanity of another, even if it scares or disappoints us. We want to know the truth about the ones we love because even if it sucks, it feels better than not knowing.

    1. Alicia, thank you for the sweet comment you left on my post and THANK YOU for your additional thoughts in this post! I wanted to yell, “exactly!” while reading it. I always tried to tell my husband that the acting out wasn’t nearly as painful to me as what went on inside his head. I wanted to feel like a partner with him, so we could battle our demons together, but he preferred to isolate due to the shame he felt.

  9. I haven’t read all the comments. I too, saw the movie and was triggered but breathed through it. When I got home I googled PT Barnum… He did not have a relationship with Jenny Lind according to Wikipedia. But I did see the narcissism in PT. He’s like my husband..
    Born poor; although it seems PT ran into someone who abused him. Was it charities dad? I’m still married working to learn to set my boundaries while extending love and example and lessons for my husband
    Thank goodness we don’t have “Jenny Linds” in the way any more!

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