How about this analogy, George . . . I know no analogy is perfect, but I think this one is an improvement over the cold-pneumonia one. Maybe we can come to more agreement on this one. I really don't think we're far off, ultimately.
Some sins are like flesh wounds. They don't kill you, but they eventually will if they are unrepented. They are not cauterized and fester. You'll eventually die of infection. If you get too many of these wounds, you'll bleed to death. However, other sins are like a massive heart attack or a horrific car accident. You die (spiritually), and you partake in the mystery of confession to get you going again, and then penances after that which work as rehab to get you restored to full health. Things like daily prayer and fasting are like drinking a glass of V8*
every morning, and Holy Communion is an elixir of boundless restorative power (but it doesn't work if you're dead!).
Of course, some other sins might be in between. There's plenty of gray area. So what do we do? Confession, confession, confession. Glory and praise to our merciful God for this sacrament!
[Modified: I forgot I was addressing an Aussie)*
V8 is a notoriously healthy vegetable juice blend here in the States (I say notoriously because it tastes awful)