Anyone want to sit down in Dr. Dill’s office, legs dangling over that blue exam table, knowing that you are drunk beyond reason at 10:00 in the morning, and say, before anything else is said: “Dr. Dill, I think I’m an alcoholic”? I didn’t think so.
It would take a lot of courage to do so and yet, Karlyn Pipes’ courage and fearlessness is up, down, and sideways in her autobiography “The Do Over: My Journey from the Depths of Addiction to World Champion Swimmer.”
There is much in this stunningly honest story that residents and former residents will find familiar.
While she only had one year at Coronado High School (CHS) when she graduated in 1980, she was part of the Coronado swimming scene for decades. She started swimming with the Coronado-Navy Swim Association when she was twelve years-old, training first with Ken Herron and then with Olympic Gold medalist, Mike Troy.
Coronado Master’s Swim Association, and the national Master’s Swim Association, are both a constant source of strength and sanctuary for her. It also was a second home to both her mother, Adrienne (Spore) Pipes and her beloved step-father, and fellow Master’s swimmer, Lloyd Skramstad.
Her “Do Over” allows her to reach her full potential as she goes on to break numerous world records in swimming and rank in the top-tiers of triathlon competitions. Her work ethic, natural talent, and competitive drive will be an inspiration for athletes of any kind, but particularly for those interested in the endurance sports.
The Hotel del Coronado, Bula’s (now Coronado Brewing Company), Danny’s Palm Bar and Grill, Central Liquor, and Silver Strand State Beach are all places that Karlyn worked and unfortunately, are all places that provided the backdrop of her descent into addiction.
Many people are named in this narrative. If you were around Coronado in the late 70s, 80s, or early 90s, you may very well recognize many of the people and places in this story.
Written in a straightforward manner, Karlyn offers a story of adversity, regret, triumph, and meaning. Tito Morales interviewed Karlyn over the course of two years and created the organization and story flow out of Karlyn’s narrative. As Karlyn lays out her life, she does so with a perfect balance of humility and confidence.
The narrative starts with Karlyn’s childhood, her alcoholic father and her early gift for swimming. As the story moves forward, alternating chapters describe her life today, her gratefulness in having the chance for a “Do-Over,” and her commitment to serve others by sharing her expertise in swimming and her experience in surviving alcoholism.
In her book, she also clearly acknowledges her swimming talent, her successes, and her world-record setting feats.
Karlyn still races today, but with the goal of fun and the encouragement of young people rather than world records. Karlyn swims in the “10 year-old and up” races now and loves seeing the kids celebrate beating a world-record holder. It gives her an opportunity to coach and mentor from inside the pool.
Aspiring swimmers will find inspiration in Karlyn’s dream of being an Olympic Class swimmer. Of particular note is Karlyn’s refusal to give up on getting a college degree, which she does in her thirties.
She also recounts the embarrassment of watching her father “dumpster dive” in the alleys of Coronado.
She shares her darkest days of her addiction, when she wasn’t even able to leave her Coronado rental for a month.
There are regrets in this story. The reader can’t help but reflect that if she had escaped the alcoholism, she probably would have found a place on the U.S. Olympic team. But Karlyn’s story is not about an Olympic-class athlete and a stable family that helps her get there. It’s about someone who surmounted incredible obstacles to create a life that is rich in purpose and meaning.
Karlyn acknowledges that she was fearful of sharing so honestly about these years: “A few months before The Do-Over was published, I was terrified. I was opening myself up, being vulnerable and sharing my deepest and darkest secrets with the world. But when it was all said and done, it was an amazing experience that was incredibly liberating. I knew now that those secrets had lost their power to hurt me.”
Karlyn’s ability to lay out her life, assessing the high and low points in her life with such balance, is something to be admired. It makes the reading of her story a pleasure – despite the heartbreaks. Karlyn’s message is one of learning to face change and challenge and thriving in the face of both.
One of the most important aspects for Coronado readers is that the book depicts what can be hidden in our beautiful town. Yes, we live in a beautiful place; yes, we have so much to be grateful for; but at the end of the day, we are human beings, often vulnerable, often not living a magical life on a magical island.
“The Do-Over” reminds readers that we only get to live life once, and sometimes we stumble mightily, but if we are lucky, we will have people loving and compassionate enough to believe in us and support our own courageous “Do-Over.” With her book, and her inspirational talks, Karlyn wants to be one more person cheering us on.
And how did Dr. Dill respond to Karlyn’s statement back in 1993? He simply and gently said: “Okay Karlyn, let’s get you to rehab,” and then directed his staff to find the best and closest rehab they could find. Her mother drove her over to San Diego and got her checked in. Karlyn never looked back. And her own “Do-Over” began.