Lisa was a beautiful young woman, full of love and kindness, radiating joy with her enchanting smile and her eyes sparkling with delight. She was willing to help anyone when they needed help. Her laughter and humor brought enjoyment to all. Everyone said she gave the best hugs. She was very spiritual and loved the Lord, touching so many hearts, my beautiful, sweet daughter. Her family and so many friends will always love her.
When Lisa was born I was exhilarated. She looked up at me with wonder and knowledge as if she knew me. I looked at her with amazement, this beautiful miracle God had blessed me with. She had been a part of me for the past nine months so I already had love in my heart for her. But that first glance was like falling in love all over again. It is hard to describe this love unless you are a parent. It is a special love a parent has for their child. an immediate bond that will last forever. We picked out the name Lisa, which means devoted to God. She was a wonderful baby, so happy and smiling, her laugh so captivating. She said Da Da and Ma Ma at nine months and started to walk at twelve months. From then on she was on the go, exploring her world.
My husband and I started our own home business so we could both be at home to raise our children. Lisa was born into a pre-made family with two half brothers, Chris and Tim. She adored them and followed them around like a puppy dog when she was little. Three years later she had a sister we named Jennifer. Lisa helped me pick out the name. She was so excited to have a baby sister. When she was seven she decided we were going to have two more babies, a boy and a girl so we could be the Brady Bunch with three boys and three girls. Lisa loved babies. A year later she got her wish with a baby girl. Lisa picked out her name: Tiffany.
Lisa loved playing with her brothers and sisters. On weekends we would spend our afternoons putting on plays and skits and video taping them. She loved to play board games and build forts. Sometimes we would go to the park and play Frisbee or a tag game called "Troll". We would also spend weekends bike riding along Mission Bay. She loved the ocean and the beach. When she was 13 she learned to surf with her brother Tim and loved the feeling of riding a wave.
Lisa was sweet, loving and affectionate. She always gave all her friends hugs. She had a wonderful imagination and when she was young could spend hours playing with her little care bear figures making up tales of adventure. She loved to dance. Many times she would dance to "Yankee Doodle Dandy" and we would video tape her marching and dancing. At the age of four she started dance classes and joined gymnastics when she was five. She had poise and grace.
Lisa also loved art and drawing and was very creative. She was a great artist and loved to draw "Fido Dido" from the Sprite commercials. When she was five she discovered computers and wanted to become a computer graphic artist. Her favorite movie then was "An American Tale". She loved the little mouse Fivel and would always sing the song "Somewhere Out There".
Lisa loved animals. Her first pet was when she was a toddler, a hamster we called Mr. Hamster. On her fifth birthday she got a Holland Lop rabbit she named Thumper. We also had a guinea pig named Chipper and numerous hamsters and mice. When she was 13 she got her first cat, she called Tiger. A year later we got a cat from the animal shelter, Roxy. Since then she adopted three more kittys: Dweizle, Isaiah and Lil Kitty. Lisa loved cats.
Lisa was very intelligent and excelled in school. In the third grade she was placed in the advanced gate class. She was very determined and a high achiever. At that time she wanted to become a lawyer or a broadcaster.
In second grade Lisa learned to love writing. She wrote many creative stories. Her poetry was published in a book called "Border Voices" in eighth grade. She has written many poems since. She loved to write and had a flair for it. She was considering a career in Journalism.
Lisa was always very creative and liked to get involved. In third grade she dressed up as the Easter Bunny and went to Jennifer's kindergarten class to pass out candy. She loved being the big sister. In the fourth grade she planned a carnival for her birthday party. She helped build booths and games, picked out prizes for the winners, and even had a ticket booth. We served hotdogs and popcorn. And she of course was the Master of Ceremonies.
In fifth grade she was in Wiz kids, a youth aerobics dance team, and was chosen to perform with the team in Las Vegas with Jack Lalanne. She was one of their youngest members. She had so much talent and so much potential.
She was a Girl Scouts for 7 years. She started brownies when she was 5 and I was her troop leader. When Jennifer joined Scouts, Lisa became the Junior Aide to her troop. She enjoyed working with the younger girls.
Lisa excelled in sports. Her grandfather was a world's tennis champion having won the coveted Davis Cup for the United States in 1934 at Wimbledon. She took tennis lessons for a couple of years and was quite good. For three years she was first baseman and a pitcher for a girls' softball team. She also was the head of a community cheerleading squad for local basketball games. In eighth grade she joined a soccer team.
Lisa enjoyed modeling. She loved to be in front of the camera. She was very beautiful. Yet that beauty radiated from within. She was very spiritual and became very close to the Lord.
One of the attributes I loved most about Lisa was her sense of humor. She loved to laugh and make others laugh. She could make many different character voices, like Steve Urkel, "Did I do that". And she could sound just like a baby crying. All of Lisa's friends told me was how funny she was. How she could always make them laugh.
Holidays were especially fun in the Stoefen Home. We would put our Christmas tree up the day after Thanksgiving and have a decorating party. On that Sunday we would go to our Church for their decorating party. And on Christmas Eve we would spend time with family or attend Church services. Lisa loved Christmas and would act like a little kid even when she was grown. On Thanksgiving we would all cook dinner together. Halloween was another fun holiday. We would decorate our house all spooky with music and fog. I would make or buy costumes for the kids and we would go trick or treating as a family. Yes I dressed up too! Our home was filled with love and laughter.
I started losing a little of Lisa towards the end of eighth grade. She was over at a friend's house when her friend suggested they try alcohol from her parent's liquor cabinet. She should have said no, but she gave in to peer pressure. Lisa was never very good at telling a friend no. She was very shy when she was little and had trouble speaking up for herself. She always wanted people to like her. She wanted to fit in. She didn't realize where that road would lead her or the danger that lurked there. She didn't understand that she was born with the disease called alcoholism and once you start down that road it is hard to turn back.
Lisa started to change. Her grades went down, she lost interest in her activities, and she didn't seem as happy anymore. The girls she started drinking with, were girls she had known since kindergarten. Some were in my brownie troop several years before. When we discovered that Lisa was drinking, we immediately put her into counseling. I was willing to do what ever it took to help my daughter. I knew alcoholism was in both sides of the family and she was at high risk of developing the disease. I wasn't sure which way to turn. I went to Alanon, Tough Love, and other support groups. Some of the advice I got was good, and some made things worse.
Having a child who is addicted is heart wrenching. It puts a lot of stress on all members of the family. They are not the most pleasant people to be around when they are using. We decided to send her to a Christian school to get her away from the friends she was drinking with, but the first day at school she ran into one of her drinking friends who had switched schools also. Plus she was still seeing friends from the neighborhood. Another problem we encountered was that parents of some of her friends would offer her alcohol ar their home or would let their child throw parties where alcohol was served. She fell deeper into addiction. We were told from counselors to take a geographic: move. So we packed up and moved to North County. Things didn't get any better. It doesn't take long for an addict to find other addicts. Eventually we sent her away to a rehab in Louisiana when she was 17. It was the hardest decision we ever had to make, but we wanted to save her life.
When she returned home she was the Lisa I had known as a child, sweet and loving. She seemed determined to make a new life for herself and got very involved with a young people's twelve-step program. She made many friends in the program that she grew to love and who grew to love her. She was willing to listen to other's problems, drive them to meetings, shared with them her joys and her struggles, helped them with their problems, and was a good friend. She stayed sober for over three years.
She became very involved with Christianity, and attended The Rock on a regular basis. I will never forget her birthday party at our house with techno music blasting in the background and the lyrics of the song "Praise the Lord". Lisa was like a butterfly, fluttering from place to place, spreading a trail beauty and light.
I am proud to say that my other two daughters, Jennifer and Tiffany have the same wonderful qualities as Lisa: sweet, kind, loving, giving, beautiful and spiritual. Both are actively involved with substance abuse prevention. And my sons have grown into extraordinary, handsome young men. Tim was baptized with Lisa at the plunge in Mission Beach. He and his wife Cammie have two sons. Chris got married two years ago. He and his wife Nora are expecting their first son.
Even though Lisa had been sober for over three years, she was still struggling with her disease. In the last couple of months she was in and out of the program. She was going to meetings but was also hanging out with people from her work who were what she called normies, people who drink. She wanted to fit in.
The year Lisa started drinking, when she was 14, the "Budweiser Frogs" were introduced during the "Super Bowl". They made alcohol seem fun, harmless and normal. Lisa also grew up with the Spud McKenzie advertisements and numerous product promotions including little stuffed Spuds McKenzie dogs that were sold everywhere and kids loved. She said that all the ads and promotions had an influence on her first deciding to drink and continuing to drink Many of the beer advertisements make alcohol seem like a beverage that "all " people drink. And many ads show drinking as the only way to have a good time at a party. There is never a mention of the side effects or negative consequences. This affects the way society thinks: "it's fun, it's harmless, it's normal". Some people will make fun of you if you don't drink or tell you something is wrong with you because "everybody drinks".
Over 10 million young people under 21 drink alcohol, nearly half of them to get drunk. By the time many children are eighteen they have seen over 100,000 beer commercials. They have seen numerous movies that show drinking as fun and romantic. Rarely are the negative consequences of alcohol shown; fatal car crashes, injuries, crimes, homicide, suicide, sexual assault, financial troubles and others. Nothing is mentioned about addiction to alcohol. No one talks about the economic cost on society: about 185 billion. And no one talks about the thousands of lives that are lost and families that are destroyed. No one tell us that alcohol is a drug.
We lost Lisa because Lisa herself was lost, torn between being an alcoholic, trying to stay sober or to be what society reflects as being normal -- namely drinking alcohol. One of the hardest things for an alcoholic to do is to admit they have a problem and that they are powerless over alcohol. Like many alcoholics she was a perfectionist.
The last time I saw Lisa was Thursday, January 2nd. She gave me a hug and a smile, told me she loved me and said she would be back later. She was on her way home when she lost control of her car, three blocks from home.
I know she is no longer struggling. she is in heaven with God. I am thankful for the time I had to spend with her and the love she gave me. She touched so many lives in her short time here on earth. And her light will continue to shine through all those she touched.