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There is a distinct correlation between clinical depression and addiction. More and more, I have realized that there needs to be more information and education relating to the topic of clinical depression. Lisa was "born into" a family that was pre-disposed to addiction and also clinical depression. She would "self-medicate" with alcohol and drugs in order to erase the feelings of inadequacy or feeling "less worthy" than anyone else. Those feelings were brought about by a short-circuit in the brain... in physiological terms having lower seratonin levels resulting in a chemical imbalance. There definitely needs to be recognition of what clinical depression is and how best to treat it. Alcohol and drugs are often used to temporarily mask the unpleasant feelings of clinical depression. The need to isolate and feeling less than everyone else is a constant theme running in the minds of those suffering from clinical depression. By taking prescribed medications for depression, eating a better diet and exercising regularly...there is a very good chance that those self-deprecating, dibilitating feelings will subside. Lisa had been taking anit-depressant meds and had been living sober a day at a time for nearly three years. She decided to stop taking her medications to treat depression...she stopped going to AA meetings... she decided to drink and drug again...she didn't make it.

My wife and I are writing a book about Lisa and will include a chapter dealing with clinical depression and it's inevitable link to addiction. More information needs to be disseminated about this topic. There needs to be an awareness regarding clinical depression and that this chemical imbalance can be managed successfully.

I am not a psychiatrist nor medical doctor...just an alcoholic that has a chemical imbalance that I used to treat with alcohol. Alcohol didn't just made me more depressed. After taking prescribed medication while in sobriety, my entire outlook has changed for the better. No longer do I dwell on the negative forces that compelled me to self-destruct. I have been able to replace the negative energy with positive energy and no longer feel sad nor depressed as much as I used to. My brain chemistry has been re-adjusted (re-wired so to speak) so that I act and feel much differently than before. It is my hope that for those who are not only suffering from addiction but also clinical depression to get the help they need. Self-awareness is the first step to recovery. Use the tools of recovery and medical science to your advantage! Warmly, Gary and Judy Stoefen

Today marks the fifth anniversary of Lisa's death. Time has not eased the emptiness in our hearts. Lisa's tragedy combined with the recent deaths of three other family members have consumed this family with much sorrow and grieving.

Today, I wrote a poem which portrays two distinct visions - one through a camera lens and the other thru my eyes.


Seeing thru the lens looking,
dancers dancing, singers singing,
actors acting, everyone smiling,

Seeing thru my eyes looking,
family dying, everyone crying,
crisis abounding, sadness lurking,

Seeing thru the lens looking,
melancholy dreams, kodacolor streams,
happiness becomes an illusion
mirrored with sadness and confusion

Seeing thru my eyes looking,
flash back disaster, anxiety sighing,
funeral home conniving.
Sadness, bitterness, everyone dying.

Seeing thru the lens looking,
pretending to see a rainbow prism
Seeing thru my eyes looking,
realizing the world is a monochromatic prison

Lisa's 25th Birthday is coming up on April 14th. As I walked into her room today, I looked at her belongings and the clothes she used to wear which are still hanging up in her closet. I wish she were still here to give us one more smile, another hug, and to hear her laughter again. The sights and sounds of Lisa's presence echo over and over again in my mind as if to remind me that she is still here. The echos of her voice are soon replaced by the echos of silence. A silence that becomes more painful minute-by-minute.

(12-21-05) - We lost Lisa nearly three years ago. The holidays always seem bittersweet to me because I remember how nice our Christmas was with Lisa -- but the tragedy that unfolded and took her life a few days later foreshadows the joy of the season. It seems only yesterday that I was able to hug and say, "I love you" to her. As I look across the room, I visualize her standing nearby as she was that night of January 2nd, just hours before she died. That scenario plays over and over.

Tonight, I feel her looking over my shoulder as I type words that try to convey her loss but the words are inadequate. The best I can do is to honor my daughter's memory and spirit and keep that alive. I know that Lisa had a deep desire to help others, particularly those in recovery. In that spirit, I am working on a book, "Lisa's Light", which will chronicle her story and give insight into the disease of addiction.

(04-25-05) - Judy will be presenting a workshop at Rancho Bernardo High School Library on Tuesday, April 26th at 7PM. She will share Lisa's story in addition to having a youth panel plus a drug and alcohol counselor from Aurora Hospital to discuss prevention efforts.

(04-14-05) - Today is Lisa's 24th Birthday. It's hard to believe that we will not be celebrating it with her, except in spirit. Lately, everywhere I go and everyone I meet has heard Lisa's Story. They tell me that Lisa did not die in vain. That her spirit lives on and is helping so many people with their recovery, just like she did when she was here on earth with us. But now she is helping people all over the world. We have received numerous e-mails from people from every state and numerous countries. They tell us that they feel Lisa's presence, especially when they are struggling to stay sober.

Kevin, from Milwaukee, Wisconsin wrote, "I want to pay tribute to Lisa and her family. Lisa did not die in vain. Her spirit continues to help me and other people stay sober. She is like a guardian angel to us now. I am thankful to her family for sharing her story with everyone".

Happy Birthday Lisa!

(01-03-05) - This marks the two year anniversary of Lisa's death.

There is still a part of us that wants to believe that Lisa will walk thru our front door again. Her room still remains much the way it was when she died.

We have dedicated a garden area of our backyard in memory of Lisa. Near the trickling water fall is a statue that looks like Lisa and really captures the essence of her spirit. The stature represents a young, angelic girl with a radiant smile holding a sunflower which happened to be Lisa's favorite flower. The cherub cheeks and rosebud mouth are reminiscent of Lisa.

When I look out my window, I can sense Lisa's spirit amongst the flowers and congregating butterflies. Her glowing smile and kind nature brings warmth to a landscape that now faces a winter chill -- a bitter chill that reminds us of this date two years ago today.

(10-17-04) - We were asked to speak at the 5th Annual Traffic Victims Remembrance Day (TVRD) in Balboa Park hosted by the Renee' Eleonor Dawson Memorial Foundation and Jamie's Joy ( The event was very emotional, inspirational, and educational. Representatives from law enforcement, MADD, Compassionate Friends, Dr. Ken Druck, Red Cross, Calif Office of Traffic Safety, and Lifesharing were available. Monica Zech, Public Information and Safety Educator for the El Cajon Fire Department ( , was the moderator.

(04-14-04) - Today is Lisa's 23rd birthday.

(03-15-04) - You can now show your support for the "Lisa Laws" by filling out a national online-petition which will be presented to lawmakers in Washington DC for consideration. Our goal is to collect a million signatures, nationwide. Your help is greatly appreciated in making these laws a reality. For more information, please visit this link, and read about the "Lisa Laws".

(02-04-04) - Thanks to the dedicated efforts of Samantha-Hope Atkins, founder of and, the "Lisa Laws" will be presented to our national lawmakers for consideration. Samantha authored the proposed laws, in memory of Lisa, which will require warning labels identifying the health and safety risks of alcohol involved particularly with families who are predisposed to alcoholism. The current warnings, "Drink Responsibly" are inadequate and send the wrong message especially to those in recovery and those pre-disposed to addiction. The current labels do not address other risks such as cancer or alcohol poisoning. 100,000 people a year die from alcohol-related deaths -- the most abused drug in this country.

(02-03-04) - We gave a presentation at the Carlsbad Academy tonight. At the end, everyone expressed their appreciation for sharing Lisa's message.

(01-15-04) - Many thanks to Moshay Simpson, Staff Writer for the San Diego Union-Tribune. His recent article was published today. Moshay has been following up on our progress since his first article written last February. We appreciate his continued interest in our efforts to carry Lisa's important message and to update our progress regarding legislative efforts in both our State and Nation's Capitol.

(01-13-04) - Both Judy and Jennifer went to our Sacramento, State Capitol today in support of Assembly bill AB 216 known as "Casey's Law", named after Casey Goodwin, from Visalia, California, who was killed in March 2003 by an underage drunk driver. AB 216 is a proposal that would place a fee on alcohol wholesalers for the profits they make from underage drinkers. It would make them accountable for targeting, promoting, and advertising to underage drinkers. Judy prepared this testimony for the Health Assembly Committee.

(01-03-04) - This is the one year anniversary of Lisa's death. Judy visited the crash site where Lisa died and lit a candle in her memory. I went to a twelve step recovery meeting and shared more about Lisa's story. This was a tough day to go thru.

(12-09-03) - I gave a presentation at Scripps McDonald Center, Student Assistance Program, in Carlsbad. Lisa's story is making an impact, one by one. The negative consequences of drinking need to be emphasized especially in a society which encourages drinking. The liquor industry continues to flaunt our youth with messages that alcohol is a beverage and not a drug. For decades, the tobacco industry lied about nicotine not being addictive. Their profit motive and bottom line preclude their concerns. The alcohol industry has the same motive -- to recruit new drinkers, especially our youth, to replace the ones that have already died from alcohol-related deaths -- approximately 100,000 per year.

(10-14-03) - Judy and I made our third presentation at Scripps McDonald Center, Student Assistance Program, in Carlsbad. Special thanks to both Curt and Lisa for inviting us back.

(08-05-03) - We did a presentation at Scripps McDonald Center, Student Assistance Program, in Carlsbad.

(05-21-03) - Many thanks to Jane Clifford, host of "Today's Family" on ITV, Channel 16, for having us on her program which was broadcast live here in San Diego. Judy, Jennifer, and I talked about the Social Host Ordinance and shared Lisa's story. Jane's program can be seen on Wednesday evenings at 7PM.

(05-18-03) - We are looking for national exposure to bring awareness about addiction and to change the way alcohol companies promote their drug especially to the youth market. We need your help. We need to keep Lisa's light burning so that others may live. Email national publications and media outlets. Let them know about our website. Thanks for your help!

(05-02-03) - Judy gave a presentation to Rancho Bernardo High School students today during their special assembly entitled, "Every 15 Minutes". Every 15 minutes someone dies from an alcohol-related crash and this program brings attention to this problem. During the speech, a video was shown with pictures of Lisa and also the car crash photos. Lisa had attended RB High four years ago. You can read Judy's speech by going to this link:   Rancho Bernardo High School Speech    It has been four months since Lisa's crash.

(04-22-03) - Judy and I gave a presentation at Scripps McDonald Center, Student Assistance Program, in Carlsbad tonight. We appreciate having Curt, a chemical dependency counselor at Scripps, extend the invitation to us to speak at the "Family Education Group" which included parents and adolescents. It was an emotional evening for everyone and the feedback we received from the group tells us that we're making a difference.

"the journey in life isn't about what happens to you...'s about how you handle what happens to you in life"

(04-14-03) - Today is Lisa's 22nd birthday.

(04-02-03)- We received an email today which illustrates the purpose of Lisa's important message. We appreciate the efforts to get the word out especially in this case...

"I am a Superior Court judge. One of my assignments is to preside over a "Drug Court" for certain defendants charged with drug and alcohol related crimes. Each Thursday morning the Drug Court "team" meets to discuss the participants, impose sanctions and encourage their sobriety. I begin each court session with a story, a quote - something encouraging or thought provoking for those who are struggling with addiction. I just wanted you to know that I will be using your daughter's story, hopefully in a way that will help someone avoid a similiar tragedy. You have my deepest sympathy."
(04-01-03) - The article in the Los Angeles Times was printed yesterday. The reprint can be found under "News Articles" on the Main Page or via the link above. We have received many emails of encouragement. Please accept our thanks for your kind thoughts and prayers and letting us know we're making a difference. We received this email yesterday and wanted to share this...

"I applaud your efforts to get the message out and try to make a difference. Thank you for being so brave. It can't be easy when your heart is so heavy from your loss. I understand all too well. My 17 year old brother was killed several years ago while driving a motorcycle under the influence. We didn't see the signs. I'm sure there were many that we overlooked, simply by not being informed enough to realize that alcoholics are not always daily abusers and that the disease is not so discriminating as to select only adults. Educating the public about the realities of alcoholism is a wonderful step in humanizing the disease so that we realize it can happen to any of us. The sadness never goes away, but Lisa will live on in your selfless crusade."
It seems that there are many misconceptions about the disease of addiction and Lisa's tragedy will help bring awareness.

(03-28-03) - Jennifer will be participating in the "Walk for Recovery", a three mile walk, to be held this Sunday, March 30th, 8AM, Balboa Park. This is a community based fundraiser in support of San Diego county drug and alcohol services. For more information, please visit:

(03-24-03) - Judy, Jennifer, and Tiffany are attending the Substance Abuse Summit held at the Town and Country Hotel & Convention Center which will be held today, Monday 3/24, and also Tuesday 3/25 from 7:30AM - 5PM. Jennifer is a panelist and also will be participating in various workshops. Jennifer's speech can be read via this link: Jennifer's Speech.
Regional professionals in the alcoholism/drug prevention field convene yearly to integrate with local government regarding treatment and prevention partnerships.

(03-18-03) - Today we met with a reporter from the Los Angeles Times and were able to talk about Lisa's story and our prevention/recovery efforts to date and for future plans. She was very helpful with our desire to carry Lisa's message.

After our interview, we made another speaking presentation at the Escondido, North Inland Regional Recovery Center (NIRRC) to both adults and adolescents. It was a full house. After the talks, a fifty-year old man came up to us and said our talks made a big difference in his life. He had been previously arrested for two DUI's and vowed never to drink and drive again. He has stayed sober a day at a time since his arrest. We recommended several twelve step meetings for him to attend regularly.

(03-12-03) - We have been getting many emails of support from families everywhere affected by the disease of alcoholism and drugs. Many have shared their own personal experiences, hopes, and strengths. One such email came today from a young woman who knew Lisa back in high school. The writer had been in a recent alcohol-related car crash and barely escaped being a fatality. After reading about Lisa's tragedy in the San Diego Union-Tribune , she emailed us the following:

"I wanted to let Lisa's family know that I am remembering her and I have myself learned a valuable lesson from this tragedy. I went to high school with Lisa. She was a beautiful and talented girl. I will print out her picture to put in my car as a reminder not to take any chances driving after drinking. I myself got into a car accident recently after I had been drinking. I totaled my car. Luckily, I didn't get hurt or a DUI....maybe Lisa was watching over me. I will never make that mistake again. The website you have established is wonderful. Your efforts will not go in vain."
(03-11-03) - Judy and I were invited to speak at the Escondido, North Inland Regional Recovery Center (NIRRC) today. We spoke to approximately thirty adolescents who are currently in treatment. We talked about the myths surrounding alcoholism and about Lisa's tragedy. Some photos were passed around the room showing the physical devastation and horror of her car crash. We then had a question-and-answer session afterwards.

We have also scheduled several other presentations to various countywide treatment centers in the near future. Plans are in the making for national exposure with the television, radio and print media. We also need your help in contacting anyone in the local or national media to get the message out there. The more we reach, the more we can help.

Please check back for updates at this website. If you would like us to talk to your group, please call us at (619) 230-9447 or email us at

(03-06-03) - Two months have gone by since Lisa's loss. Her foundation has accomplished alot in such little time already. Much has been done to carry her message out there to the community. The local press has been considerate in allowing us the opportunity to carry her important message.

Judy and Jennifer have assisted the organization, North Inland Community Prevention Program, (NICPP) to help pass a new city ordinance which would make adults liable for hosting underage drinking parties. Judy participated in a press conference at City Hall on March 5th. The preliminary measure passed 5 to 0 in committee and it will go before the full city council for their vote. Check this link for the exact language of the ordinance: Social Host Ordinance
For Judy's remarks please go to this link: press conference

We are in the process of establishing the Lisa's Light website so that we can continue recovery education, enact tougher legislation regarding alcohol, and ultimately carry Lisa's message to a national audience.

We gratefully appreciate any help from the community in helping us get the message out to others on Lisa's behalf. Specifically, we need help in attracting the national media. Please feel free to contact us at

Please keep checking our website for regular progress updates.

(02-04-03) - It has been nearly a month since Lisa died and there are many thoughts racing in my mind. The nightmares won't go away. Constant images dance in my head of a crash that won't stop.

My emotions seem to change hourly. Sadness to madness and back. Feelings of disbelief and emptiness seem to preoccupy my thoughts. The anguish and torment of losing a child so traumatically seems like a rape of the soul. Thoughts turn into anger. My mind quickly refocuses on where the anger should be directed--at the disease of alcoholism itself. Am I trying to justify this tragedy? There seems to be no justification for this. It shouldn't have happened. It wouldn't have happened had Lisa been sober -- if she hadn't taken that first drink.

Death comes cleverly disguised. Those who suffer the disease of alcoholism are told that death, jails or institutions are the promises of continued drinking. We are told that in many cases people who relapse never make it back alive. I never thought that this would apply to our family -- these tragedies happen to other families, not ours. Alcohol-related fatalities are just statistics aren't they? But it happened to Lisa. She is just one of the twenty six thousand people in our country that die from alcohol-related car crashes every year. A statistic that we will never forget.

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