There is a difference between an old flame and a skeleton in the closet.
Old flames can still hurt. They’re flames! They are still burning, still alive, still flickering tongues of danger ready to leap out and leave a mark. They will sting briefly or scorch deeply into flesh. A painful blister will result, the size of which depends on how long the flame was in contact with the surface. Maybe a small boo-boo easy to cover with a band-ad or a life-altering scar that requires therapy. The longer the flame flourishes against its tinder, the more damage it can do. The deeper the damage, the longer the recovery. Old flames are called ‘flames’ because they should be approached with caution, or just smothered immediately.
Skeletons in the closet, on the other hand, are not so dangerous. They are already dead; their trickery lurks in their reappearance. However, the trick can be thwarted by using the startle reflex to grab the skeleton as it pops out of the closet ,thus preventing it from hiding again. Keep it out in the open, and don’t let it have the chance to craftily surprise again. Name the skeleton. Use it as a teaching tool…’the neck bone’s connected to the shoulder bone…’ and how all things are connected for a good purpose. Use it to instruct about strength and the harmful habits that can weaken such strength. Own that skeleton, dress it up with a pirate hat or a feather boa. Enjoy the moment when that skeleton is no longer something hidden or frightening, but an accepted part of life to be shared and celebrated.
Approach doors of opportunity with care. If they are warm to the touch, run in the opposite direction. If you hear nothing behind them, open carefully. But open them anyway.