How has your past helped shape who you are today?
I grew up in a chaotic family with an active alcoholic father and a mom in constant survival mode with five children under the age of seven. There was a lot of arguing in the house and money was very tight. Life seemed very harsh and loud and I didn't feel safe or secure in that kind of environment. However, where I did feel safe and secure was in the water. It was warm, it was inviting, it was fun! I especially loved the positive feedback I received from my YMCA learn-to-swim instructors as it was just what my low self-esteem needed. I was also really comfortable in the water and right away it felt like home.
From a very early age it was obvious to those around me that I had natural talent, especially in the backstroke. When I started racing at age 6, a whole new level of interest grew for me as now not only did I like what I was doing (swimming), I was rewarded! My first second-place ribbon gave me a lot of attention and I loved the fact that anyone around the pool area could see that I was a good swimmer. I also realized that when you win a race, it doesn't matter what kind of crazy family you come from. Winning can hide all the flaws of real life. I also learned very quickly that if I swam fast, people seemed to like me.
I don't really think I developed a champion mindset until after I got sober. When I swam as a youth, it was always to get something from the experience. A medal, a record, a scholarship, the attention of a cute boy, and most importantly the opportunity to beat someone else to prove to the world that I was worth something. I certainly did not feel that inside. However, it wasn't until I had thrown away everything of importance and hit rock-bottom at age 31 that my life began to come into focus. Through the gift of sobriety, I have been allowed to reconnect with the real Karlyn and it has been one heck of an amazing journey. I had to lose everything and nearly die in order to find her, but it sure has been worth it.
You recently wrote a book about your powerful journey of overcoming addiction and becoming a champion, what do you hope readers gain from your excellent book?
Thank you for your kind words of encouragement! Writing The Do-Over, My Journey from the Depths of Addiction was truly a life changing experience and I hope it will be for the reader as well. There is such a variety of characters in the book that I am confident that everyone will find at least one person they will be able to relate to. Truth be told, when writing my very real and raw story with my contributor Tito Morales, I often found myself absolutely terrified. After all, once published, the whole world was going to know my dirty secrets.
However, through the process of sharing my failure, fears and flaws, I discovered something very unexpected. I found freedom. Of course self-examination is never easy, but by gradually letting go of the guilt and shame associated with the many poor choices and mistakes I made in the past, I now find myself a lot happier and a lot less fearful. They say "the truth will set you free" and I wholeheartedly agree. I hope that by sharing my story I can inspire others to follow as it seems that there are many unhappy, unsatisfied people out there that are really hurting.