Michael Anthony Peña, Jr.

Michael Anthony Peña, Jr.

Courageous, loyal, tenacious, resilient, loving

Mikey was an extremely loyal person, especially to his family. He made a point of being at family gatherings and emotionally supporting his mother and sisters. Mikey stood firm in his beliefs and stood up for anyone, especially his loved ones. He had a strong sense of integrity and loyalty and wouldn’t give up on the people he cared for. He enjoyed spending time with his sisters and their kids. Hiking, or going to the park and carrying his nephews whenever they were tired. Mikey stood 6’0 with broad shoulders and a sturdy athletic build, so it was easy for him to carry the little ones. His sister says that his size also meant that he gave the best hugs.

At a young age, Mikey was diagnosed with depression and schizophrenia. He was prescribed medication but didn’t like taking it because it made him feel like a zombie. He turned to self-medicating with drugs. In school, he was extremely good at math and loved drawing and music. Though he was artistic, his sister says that he was never afraid to try new things. In high school, he thrived in his JROTC classes, as they provided him with a strict routine. Unfortunately, he had to go to juvie and couldn’t graduate with his class. However, because of his persistence, he earned his GED. Shortly after high school, Mikey moved to the east coast, eventually moving back home to care for his mother when she became ill, a perfect example of his loyalty.

Mikey loved reading, philosophy, and writing poetry. His poetry was a powerful testament to his hope of trying to make it for his family and persevere through the struggles of living with substance addiction and mental illness. He had a good sense of humor and was quite the jokester, which paired well with his deep, contagious laugh. Mikey was easygoing and fun-loving and he loved movies, especially comedies. He was also very observant and could read a room well.

Mikey’s biggest goal in life was to be financially independent and a source of stability for his family. Before his passing, he had just moved from a halfway house in California to one in New York. He had job interviews lined up and was positioned to get an apartment. He was looking forward to building a new life in a new environment. More than anything, he wanted to own a home and have kids one day.

Though Mikey’s mental health conditions and active addiction made it hard for him to feel truly safe, he felt safest when surrounded by his family. This was especially true on Thanksgiving, his favorite holiday. During his visits he loved spending time with his nephews coloring, doing puzzles, playing board games, and watching movies. He also relished the family tradition of going toSubstation to get sandwiches together.

His sister says what she misses the most about him are his engulfing bear hugs, his loud laughter, his patience, the wisdom he imparted, and the strength and stability he brought to their family. She says the hardest part of loving someone in active addiction is not knowing how to help them or what to do. She admires her mom and sister for always seeing past Mikey’s addiction and giving him the compassion and love he needed.

Mikey’s sister, Auvenida Peña, provided the information for this narrative.

June 8, 1992 – May 21, 2021

Age 28-Lived with the disease of addiction for 15 years.

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